Essex drug dealer first to be jailed for possessing laughing gas since ban

'It's just Christmas presents, that's it' - Thomas Salton lied to police officers before they searched his car, as ITV News' Kit Bradshaw reports.

A drug dealer caught with “party bags” containing canisters of laughing gas has become the first person to be jailed for possessing the drug since it became an offence.

Thomas Salton, 30, had gift boxes for customers which included the nitrous oxide, ketamine, balloons and candy canes.

Salton, of Brentwood in Essex, was found with 60 small canisters of the drug, 48 one-gram bags of ketamine and £39,000 in cash when police pulled over his Range Rover on 1 December last year.

Also, in the car was a “naughty” and “nice” list of customers - with gift bags for those on the naughty list - and a legal non-disclosure agreement for customers to sign.

A further 408 nitrous oxide canisters and 965g of ketamine were later found at a property Salton was renting 10 miles from his home.

Thomas Salton's Range Rover filled with party bags and, right, some of the thousands in cash and bags of ketamine seized by police. Credit: Essex Police

Salton was sentenced to 35 months in prison at Basildon Crown Court on Monday after pleading guilty to possessing nitrous oxide with intent to supply at a hearing last month.

He also admitted possessing ketamine with intent to supply, possession of a class A drug and possessing criminal property, in relation to the cash, according to the CPS.

Det Sgt Stephen Robson, of Essex Police's serious and organised crime unit, said: “Our investigation placed Salton in the midst of large-scale supply to customers within the party scene in Essex.

“He was found to be holding large quantities of Class B and Class C drugs separated for supply purposes. 

“Our later enquiries at his business lockup demonstrated the preparation behind this operation, with large quantities of illicit drugs stored for later packaging and supply in smaller quantities. 

“This was clearly an organised operation, with Salton even going to the lengths of drafting a non-disclosure agreement for his customers to sign.

“This level of detail and organisation provided us with exactly the evidence we needed to prove his role in an illicit drug supply operation."

A non-disclosure agreement for guests to sign was found in the car, along with cash. Credit: Essex Police

Alex Hinds, a prosecutor for CPS East of England, said: “The evidence against Thomas Salton was overwhelming and this case is an example of all parts of the justice system working together to get drugs and those who sell them off the streets.

“The change in the law coupled with the actions of the police has allowed the CPS to present the strongest case in court and put Thomas Salton out of business and into prison.

“Nitrous oxide is a dangerous drug and hopefully this first conviction will deter those thinking of buying or selling it.”

Nitrous oxide, nicknamed “hippy crack”, was made a Class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 last November, as part of the government’s anti-social behaviour action plan.

This means possession of nitrous oxide, where a person intends to wrongfully inhale it for a psychoactive effect, is now an offence and dealers could face up to 14 years behind bars.

It is still possible to use the gas for legitimate reasons, such as catering, pain relief during labour or in model rockets.

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