'Head shop' asked to quit judge's outlet

Thu, Feb 4, 2010, 00:00

A DISTRICT Court judge who owns a premises in Naas, Co Kildare, that had been rented to a “head shop” has asked his auctioneer to have the building vacated.

Judge John Coughlan issued a statement through the Courts Service yesterday, saying: “It has been drawn to my attention that a premises I let to a commercial tenant, the site of my former legal practice, has been operated as a place of trade commonly referred to as a ‘head shop’.

“I had agreed to allow the premises be used as a venue for an alternative medicine centre, and had no idea of its current use. The moment I realised this I contacted my auctioneer who reached an agreement immediately with the operators of this shop that they will vacate the premises and seek accommodation elsewhere.”

Controversy surrounding the head shop, Happy Daze, first surfaced in the local media.

There have been a number of calls for a change in the law to deal with the growing phenomenon of head shops, which sell products offering “legal highs” that are not illegal under current law. The Minister of State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, John Curran, has said he does not believe goods available in head shops should be legal in the State.

Judge Coughlan, a native of Co Kildare, was appointed to the District Court in September 2002. Prior to his judicial appointment he operated out of the premises in question in Naas, and also had an office in Newbridge.

Meanwhile, Customs officers are to prepare a file for the Director of Public Prosecutions after they raided a head shop in Cork and seized products being sold over the counter at the outlet.

Customs officers searched the shop and its storage premises under warrant last Friday and seized products including Pink Champagne, an amphetamine which, officers believe, contains benzylpiperazine (BZP).

A spokeswoman for the Customs and Excise section of the Revenue Commissioners declined to comment on the matter, other than to confirm that a shop and storage premises in Cork had been searched under warrant.

Last March, Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney announced that BZP had been declared a controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977, and that its possession or sale was to become a criminal offence.

Dr Chris Luke, consultant in emergency medicine at Cork University Hospital and the Mercy University Hospital (MUH) in Cork, has repeatedly warned of the dangers of what is sold in head shops.

Dr Luke said the “head shop highs” produced by synthetic cocaine powders such as Snow Blow, XXX and Charge, and “organic” leaves and seeds such as Salvia divinorum, were resulting in significant numbers of young people having to be hospitalised.

Last month in Cork, five patients were brought to the MUH emergency department suffering adverse reactions to such drugs which can include panic, paranoia, delirium, psychosis and serious impact on the psychological health of the drug taker, Dr Luke said.