The Independent London Newspaper
28th April 2017

First conviction in Camden Town bong ban 'sets precedent' for more police raids

    Police said court ruling gives them "confidence" to push on with operation

    Published: 2 February, 2017
    By WILLIAM McLENNAN

    POLICE have vowed to push on with an operation to make Camden Town a bong-free zone after a shopkeeper was convicted yesterday (Wednesday) of selling thousands of items of drug paraphernalia.

    Ramalar Munjal pleaded guilty to supplying items, including glass bongs and king-size Rizla papers, that he admitted could be used to smoke cannabis, from a souvenir stall in Camden High Street. The 55-year-old also pleaded guilty to a second count of supplying scales, grinders and “self-seal snap bags”, that he admitted could be used to prepare cannabis for use.

    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. 

    Bongs, pipes and smoking papers have been on sale in NW1 for decades, but in 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 said police hoped to end the area’s notorious reputation as “London’s Amsterdam”, which they said fuelled drug dealing by creating a “culture of tacit 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 that her client was not part of a campaign to legalise and regulate the supply of cannabis, but worked only to “provide support his family”. 

    Ms Bhudia added: “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.”

    The court heard that Mr Munjal is now unemployed and receiving jobseeker’s allowance. 

    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 Rizla 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.”

    PC Sharpley said he was “glad” Mr Munjal had a conditional discharge, adding that they had not been seeking a custodial sentence. 

    “The victory for us is the forfeit of the materials and the confidence to go and do it again,” he said.

    Comments

    There are always loopholes

    Some years ago they banned bongs in Australia so sellers simply started marketing them as "oil pourers", which meant they could legally be sold and of course people still used them as bongs.

    I remember the official line from Rizla regarding their King Size skins was that they were for long distance lorry drivers.

    All that's needed is a dash of creativity. Pipes could be used for smoking tobacco and grinders for grinding herbs in the kitchen when cooking etc.

    If the police want to go down the route of prosecuting "head shops", it will be easy for sellers to find all sorts of loopholes. The police just got lucky this time by going after someone who rolled over and pleaded guilty. In the long term, this will be another battle the authorities will never win.

    Daft policing with no positive outcome

    Let's see if the cops bust the big Morrisons Chalk Farm supermarket, literally located right above Camden's Stables Market, for supplying rolling papers and lighters. They also sell a range of produce that comes in plastic bottles, which are perfect for creating homemade bongs in just a minute or two. It's daft of the cops to think this exercise will have any positive outcome. Weed has always been widely available and always will be. I'm off to roll a big fat reefer to help me relax and enjoy my Sunday afternoon, before another long week of hard work so I can pay my taxes to help fund the cops with their agenda that is not supported my most members of the public. But in the eyes of the law, I'm a criminal. This country is so messed up.

    An admission that sets a dangerous precedent for prosecution

    The so-called crime is not in the items themselves (which is why supermarkets and other outlets are allowed to sell them,) but in the two phrases "that he admitted could be used to smoke cannabis" and "that he admitted could be used to prepare cannabis for use." If he had not admitted these two phrases and just said "I don't know" or "I have no idea about that," he would have been found not guilty and had his goods returned to him. Such a shame that this case has set a precedent for the police to continue wasting tax payers' money.

    Police & Bongs

    Most comments I have ever seen on a CNJ article. This country should be legalising drugs like Portugal ... helping hard core addicts and ignoring soft drugs instead, in the face of financial cut backs to the police - they decide to do the opposite. Makes no sense at all ....

    It's a stitch up

    It sounds like this guy had very bad legal representation. Some of the quotes from his solicitor are very odd to use as a defence. Why he was advised to plead guilty we'll never know. There has all ready been a recent ruling at the high court confirming that the items this guy was prosecuted for are not illegal to sell.

    The war on drugs

    Most people smoke spliffs not bongs and you can get Rizla at any supermarket or convenience store and roll one up. The war on drugs is a total failure. Countries all around the world are legalising/decriminalising cannabis but in Camden, police are trying to stop the supply of smoking gear. The other comments are right; this is embarrassing. I feel sorry for the businesses that rely on tourism because Camden Town is losing all the things that made it iconic. I wonder if the police are having this crackdown because of pressure from property developers.

    Outrage

    Selling Rizla????

    What a disgrace. So glad my tax money is going on shutting down this evil.

    Camden Bong Ban

    It feels like almost everybody you speak to in the borough of Camden has a story about the time they were let down by the police, usually because they didn't turn up when called or arrived too late. Funny how the police have time for this nonsense. What do the police hope to achieve by doing this? Do they think their actions will stop the use of cannabis? They're completely out of touch.

    The po lice forgot a few

    The po lice forgot a few other likely suspects that potentially could be misused for cannabis consumption; an avacodo and a corkscrew, cardboard tube and tinfoil, any soda can, cigars and don't forget plumbing supply!

    Millions of people smoke cannabis and always have

    Police making an example of someone and ruining their livelyhood. When will the Police and Gov wake up!? Cigarettes and alcohol are far more dangerous substances yet are legal and are sold everywhere because so many pockets are being lined. Shame on the Met. This countries backwards drug policies are a complete embaressment.

    Whrecking peoples lives

    Whrecking peoples lives canabis is sceule 1 and it does have MEDICINAL values this Tory government is corrupt to the core.

    Fun at parties.

    PC Sam Sharpley must be great fun at parties.

    Moronic

    The neighbourhood tesco sells king size rizla, lighters and enough bottles and pipes to trivially make a dozen bongs. You can order some of the listed products on amazon and they'll probably have them at your door the next day!

    What a complete waste of time. How about dealing with the actual drug dealers, scooter gangs and burglars?

    The policy just put a guy on the dole literally for not being a big enough business hire expensive lawyers.

    pathetic

    as per usual more pointless enforcement of bygone laws. the Met should be ashamed of themselves.

    Silly

    Absolutely ridiculous.

    The police are too lazy and inept to do real police work so they go for the low hanging fruit.

    Time and money wasters

    Yes another waste of public money !!

    embarrassing

    this is actually quite embarrassing that they are admitting to this. lighters and king size rizzlers arent illegal.

    Police ruin mans livelihood,

    Police ruin mans livelihood, seem quite pleased they found the confidence to do so

    -.-

    Police ruin mans livelihood,

    Police ruin mans livelihood, seem quite pleased they found the confidence to do so

    -.-

    Idiots

    "The court heard that Mr Munjal is now unemployed and receiving jobseeker’s allowance. "

    So you put a man out of business, for selling items which can be purchased in supermarkets or on Amazon. You stop him from contributing income tax, and increase business for big corporations who don't pay tax. For what? Is there an actual goal? This is one of the stupidest enforcements of the law I have ever seen, does anybody in that police force have any sense whatsoever?

    Easy Target

    Too hard to get out and stop the legions of scooter and bike thieves in Camden & Islington. Instead let's stop someone smoking a bong at home and ordering too much pizza.

    I look forward to them raiding the major supermarkets.

    And it's not even achieving

    And it's not even achieving that - the weed smoker will just get his bong elsewhere or smoke spliffs.

    What a waste of resources

    Seriously, do something worthwhile with your time and stop harassing small businesses.

    What's the point?

    So a lot of money has been wasted raiding the shop (not to mention all the time police spent counting them Rizla packets and lighters), then taking this through the courts and now the man has ended up on benefits. Are we supposed to think this is a good result?

    ridiculous waste of time

    Haven't the police and the courts got more deserving things to prosecute?

    Pointless

    What a massive waste of time and resource

    What a complete waste of time

    What a complete waste of time and money. Well done.

    is this real?

    Serisoulsy this is bonkers, are they going to go to the rizzla factory and arrest all of them? or every shop assistant who works at every supermarket as they all sell king size rizlas and lighters

    Waste of hard working tax payer money

    Colorado earns billions after legalising, and several more states are also legalising.

    We're here still arresting people for selling glass.

    On a plus note it's nice to know that crime is so low there that lots of officers and people working in the justice system can spend hundreds of man hours and hundreds of thousands of pounds dealing with these dodgy glass merchants.

    WHY?

    clearly anyone can order any of these items on amazon and other websites for same day/next day delivery. Or even any shop for that matter, the reason these products are being sold is because they are being used/bought BECAUSE PEOPLE SMOKE CANNABIS!!!

    Instead of more bs rules, legalise it.

    the shopkeepers are simply just doing their job and realising people aren't going to spend £20 on sweets chocolate and a newspaper anymore so have updated for the new generation.

    the old generation needs to be more accepting of stoners and let them do their thing. You cannot walk out of the underground anywhere in london without smelling weed, so what is the problem.

    outrage.

    Absutely disgusting .

    Absutely disgusting .

    Ridiculous

    This is simply ridiculous and a frivolous waste of police resources.

    Ridiculous

    This is simply ridiculous and a frivolous waste of police resources.

    APPEAL IT

    Actually there is a Crown Ct precedent from last year which threw this type of ridiculous prosecution out. Anything 'may' be used for criminal purposes.

    Crazy priorities

    This is such a waste of police resources when so many cuts are being made and the police can't investigate serious crime. I don't even understand why cannabis is still illegal in this day and age but to now start prosecuting market stalls selling bongs, rolling papers and lighters is pathetic.

    It's 2017?!?!

    Man, we are so backwards in this country! It's a plant, how can I get fat and be a burden to society but still be classed as a normal human being. But you smoke a plant just to relax after a long day and just stop your brain working so much and you're a criminal, crazy

    Appeal

    For goodness sake, someone tell these poor shopkeepers to get a proper solicitor and appeal. And to sue the police for loss of business! The offence is not complete. Admitting they 'could' be used isn't enough. 'Believe' is the word used in section 9a of the Misuse of Drugs Act. There are stated cases relating to this!
    As if we his has any impact on drug use. So I'll informed and inappropriate of the police to waste their time and energy with this

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