First Incarceration in Essex for Intent to Distribute Nitrous Oxide


A man in Essex has been sentenced to four months in prison for possessing and intending to distribute nitrous oxide, marking the first such prosecution since the substance was classified as an offence. Thomas Salton was arrested in December in Southernhay, Basildon, after police discovered nitrous oxide canisters, ketamine, and nearly £39,000 in cash in his vehicle. The substances were found in party bags along with balloons and crackers.

The Southend Crown Court heard that the 31-year-old was apprehended during a traffic stop where police also found non-disclosure agreements for clients. Further investigations at Salton’s residence and two storage units linked to him revealed more drugs including magic mushrooms, additional ketamine, and 408 nitrous oxide canisters.

Salton pleaded guilty to possession with intent to supply Class B and C drugs, possession of a Class A drug for personal use, and possession of criminal property on January 8 at Basildon Crown Court. He received a total sentence of 35 months for all offences, including the four months for the nitrous oxide charges.

Nitrous oxide was classified as a Class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 in November 2023. The law stipulates up to two years in prison for possession and up to 14 years for supply.

Alex Hinds from the Crown Prosecution Service East of England stated that the evidence against Salton was overwhelming and this case demonstrated the effectiveness of the justice system in combating drug-related crimes. He added that the conviction should serve as a deterrent to potential nitrous oxide buyers or sellers.

Detective Sergeant Stephen Robson highlighted that Salton’s case revealed the large-scale supply of drugs within the party scene in Essex, which often leads to serious violence and exploitation of vulnerable individuals. Meanwhile, Chief Superintendent Simon Anslow stated that while law enforcement would educate people about the change in law, they would not hesitate to enforce it if necessary.

Chris Philp, Crime and Policing Minister, echoed this sentiment, stating that the conviction and sentencing sends a clear message that dealing in or illegally possessing nitrous oxide will not be tolerated.

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