- Police say that conviction ‘sets precedent’ for more police raids
- Conviction comes after officers warned shops they are now ready to raid their businesses and take them to court if they do not clear their shelves of items with known links to drug use
- Police said court ruling gives them “confidence” to push on with operation
Police in Camden Town have vowed to push on with an operation to make the area a bong-free zone after a shopkeeper was convicted on 1st February of selling thousands of items of drug paraphernalia. This Camden Bong Ban precedent could spell trouble for head shops in the area and beyond…
Ramalar Munjal, 55, pleaded guilty to supplying items including glass bongs and king-size skins which, he admitted, could be used to smoke cannabis, from a souvenir stall in Camden High Street. The Camden shop owner also pleaded guilty to a second count of supplying “self-seal snap bags,” grinders and scales.
The conviction at Highbury Magistrates’ Court is the first since police announced a crackdown on what has been a long-standing trade in Camden High Street as they attempt to enforce the Camden bong ban
Skins, bongs and pipes have been on sale in Camden for decades, but last October members of the local police Safer Neighbourhood Team warned that they were to begin enforcing a little-known section of the Misuse of Drug Acts, which makes it an offence to sell anything that you know will be used to “prepare a controlled drug for administration”.
A letter sent to shopkeepers from the police made clear their intention to end Camden’s infamous reputation as “London’s Amsterdam”, which they said fueled drug dealing by creating a “culture of acceptance”.
Mr Munjal’s solicitor, Arnita Bhudia, told the court: “I think the offence should be taken in a context. These offences were not being prosecuted for quite some time. However there has been a clampdown in Camden for these particular offences, because there seems to be a major drug problem in Camden.”
She said her client was working in the souvenir shop purely to “provide support [for] his family,” not as part of a campaign to legalise cannabis.
Ms Bhudia highlighted the fact her client did not work full time at the shop: “He worked there three times a week, only to try to earn a living. There is no political message. It’s only to try to earn a living to support his family.”
Prosecutor Alison Armour, for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said that police raided the stall on November 8 last year and seized thousands of items, including 151 bongs, 305 pipes, 1,084 lighters, 792 packets of king-size skins and 73 grinders.
She added: “All of these items are items associated with the administration of controlled drugs. One of the officer’s concerns is that the area is well-known by word of mouth for this sort of thing.”
Speaking after the hearing, PC Sam Sharpley said: “What we have got here today is a precedent. We will now renew our initiative to enforce this legislation on the high street.” The Camden bong ban could, therefore, spell trouble for other head shop owners in the area and beyond, depending on how strictly the police attempt to pursue them.
PC Sharpley did, however, say he was “glad” Mr Munjal had only been served a conditional discharge, as they were not seeking a custodial sentence.
This is an initial news report, and we will have more on this as the story develops. Have you been affected by this enforcement? Let us know and share your story: [email protected]