Moments before he was jailed, a man whose life has been ruined by legal highs has issued a desperate warning to the town’s youth – “don’t end up like me”.
Three months ago, James Hetherington was working, had a girlfriend and a future. After dabbling in legal highs, he is now behind bars after stealing from the friends of his family who have cut all ties with him.
On Monday he begged to be locked up, believing it be his last hope in shaking off the addiction friends say is comparable only to heroin.
And minutes before magistrates jailed him for over 17 weeks, Hetherington spoke to The Scarborough News to warn children away from the substances.
“Taking legal highs is without a doubt the biggest mistake of my life – they’ve cost me everything,” said the 21-year-old.
Scarborough magistrates heard how the former Graham School pupil stole to feed his over-the-counter habit.
He stole expensive electrical goods, namely an Xbox controller and a laptop, to sell for quick cash. The laptop, the court heard, was from a family friend.
“Stealing from the people who care for me is my lowest point, without doubt,” said James.
But despite having a criminal record, he claims that he only started taking legal highs in April.
At that point, he was working as a cleaner and was in a steady relationship.
But after becoming hooked on the powders and potions, his life spiralled out of control.
“They left me homeless, without nothing, and miserable,” he added.
“I come from a good, loving family but they want nothing to do with me now.
“All I want is to get off the legals and for them to give me another chance.”
But that will have to wait, after magistrates jailed him for a combined total of 17 weeks and five days for the offences.
The morning hearing heard how after getting into legal highs, he “fell into the wrong crowd”.
Probation said his problem had already become so bad that he was already in desperate need of intervention, while his solicitor Nick Tubbs said his client considered prison his last chance.
“It’s a very sorry state of affairs that he’s got himself in,” said Mr Tubbs. “It’s a real mess and at the present he sees no way out of this.”
Associates of the former Colescliffe Crescent man said that legal highs were “hell on earth”, and said the impact they had had on Hetherington were apparent even in such a short space of time.
“I can only compare coming off legal highs to coming off heroin,” said one, who asked not to be named.
“You are sleeping 20 hours a day, and your stomach just cramps up but the worst damage is what they do to your head.”
In the recent Queen’s Speech, the Government announced it was looking at a blanket ban on the substances, which have been linked to several deaths.
In the wake of a Scarborough News campaign last year, Scarborough Council banned them from being sold on it’s premises – although they are still on sale in town.
But Hetherington, who also had to pay £260 in charges, said nobody should go near them.
“If I could say anything it would be to avoid them, or if that’s too late, get off them now.
“Don’t end up like me.”