A CHARITY set up in memory of a medical student who died after taking a ‘legal high’ has backed recommendations for tougher legislation.

A spokesman for the Angelus Foundation, founded by the mother of Sussex University medical student Hester Stewart, said penalties were “too low” for shops knowingly selling psychoactive substances for human consumption.

The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) think-tank this week recommended laws making it easier for so-called ‘head shops’ to be closed down and owners banned from opening certain types of businesses.

Angelus spokesman Jeremy Sare said: “The main thrust of what they are saying is there should not be these unpredictable substances on the high street and we entirely agree, that has gone on too long.

“Some shops in the UK have sold substances which have caused deaths and they have not responded in any way – what other business would continue to sell a substance which has killed somebody?

“Some of these are very powerful drugs – a 16-year-old trying one can have an extremely distressing experience which sits with them for a very long time.”

The CSJ recommends following the example of the Irish government in 2010 when it passed a law allowing police to shut down shops that refuse to stop selling psychoactive substances for human consumption.

Shops in the UK frequently dodge less strict legislation by marketing the substances as, for example, plant food, room fresheners and bath salts.

Lewes MP Norman Baker, the minister for crime prevention, said he was waiting for the Home Office to formally respond to his review on how to tackle the growing use of the drugs.

He said: “My aim is to minimise the harm from these substances in society.

“People think they are safe because there is a tendency to call them ‘legal highs’, which confers a respectability they don’t warrant.”

He wrote to local authorities across the country about six months ago, highlighting underused powers to tackle the trade.

He said: “We are in a race against the chemists in which we are always playing catch-up.”

Hester Stewart died in 2009 after taking unclassified liquid party drug GBL.