‘No more headshops’ locally, says Mayor

Jimmy Guichard died within hours of buying a three euro bag of legal highs from a shop in England.
Jimmy Guichard died within hours of buying a three euro bag of legal highs from a shop in England.

There are no more headshops operating in the Derry and Strabane area, Mayor Elisha McCallion has said.

Mayor McCallion was speaking after the issue of tackling legal highs was raised at this week’s full meeting of Derry City and Strabane District Council.

During the meeting at the Guildhall on Thursday, Ulster Unionist Party Councillor Derek Hussey proposed that the local authority emulate the situation in Belfast where local PSNI officers successfully worked with the local authority to tackle the issue head on.

Colr. Hussey said the methodology used should be explored between Derry & Strabane Council and if appropriate adopted locally.

Mayor McCallion said it was her understanding that there was no head shops in the Derry-Strabane area at present.

Independent Councillor Paul Gallagher however said that such head shops could “pop up at any time”.

Also speaking at the meeting, Independent Councillor Gary Donnelly said there were shops which were still selling drug paraphernalia.

Newly seated DUP Councillor Graham Warke, who has replaced MLA Gary Middleton, told the council:

“These legal highs are so easy to get now for young people on the internet and they will have it next day delivery.”

There have previously been widespread concerns expressed in the council chamber and elsewhere that young people in the north west were able to buy highly volatile ‘legal highs’ over the counter from so-called ‘head shops’.

Legal highs - which mirror the effects of illegal drugs, with often severe and even deadly side effects - are often disguised in packaging as bath salts, fertiliser etc.

The discussion in the council chamber this week followed a an address by Letterkenny woman Karen Audino at a council meeting in April.

Ms Audino spoke of how the United Communities Against Drugs group was formed in memory of her son Jimmy Guichard (pictured), who died aged 20 from a massive heart attack brought on by taking legal highs back in October 2013.

She said some legal highs had been found to be 100 times stronger that the products they were designed to mimic.

Last October on the first anniversary of her son’s death, Karen has told a previous meeting in Derry: “I don’t want any mum to go through this.”