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.