By Roland Sebestyén
After 15-year-old Leah Heyes tragically died after taking MDMA, the two dealers were sentenced to 12 and 21 months in prison. Their lawyers successfully argued that Leah took the drug with “consent.” That’s when Leah’s mum, Kerry Roberts decided to take action and fight for a law change.
Ms Roberts started a campaign to protect children like Leah. She called people to persuade the Government to look at changing the law making it a specific offence to supply drugs to children under age 16. She now has until April to gather 10,000 signatures but she has bigger plans. She’s passionate, and won’t stop until she succeeds.
Canex: How would you describe Leah? What kind of person was she?
Kerry Roberts: She was fun, thoughtful and full of life. She was also very loud but in a funny way. Leah was always thinking about the future – what she wants to do and what we could do together.
Could you tell us a bit more about your campaign, please? When did you decide to take action and start this petition?
I was thinking about it immediately; before the court case, when after the boys got arrested. They were talking about sentencing and what the boys were getting done for and I couldn’t understand it. They kept saying the word “consent”. They told me they were “consented” to take the drug. At the time my mind wasn’t really, I wasn’t thinking straight. I was just taking it all in, I said “Okay, okay.”
Then the boys were sentenced to 12 and 21 months [behind bars] and I was just told the word “consent.” This word was used a lot. I was walking out of the court and I was like “how did she consent? She couldn’t consent to buy alcohol, cigarettes, or having sex. She was only 15.” I’m under no illusion, she took that drug; it wasn’t forced on her throat. But she was 15. How did she consent? This is where I got my idea. The law, the legislation, are out of date.
Now it’s quite normal for children to be taking drugs, and I don’t want it to be normal. I think the people who are dealing [drugs] to the children need to be punished.
Leah and Kerry
Have you talked to people who know the law; such as a group/organisation who could help you to change things? Does your MP support you and your cause?
I’ve talked to Zoë Metcalfe, the North Yorkshire Crime Commissioner, and she’s really behind me. We’re going to get some lawyers involved to write up the legislation, the law, how it would be. We want to take it to the Parliament; we’re going to try and get on BBC’s Question Time, and we’re going to get it advertised around the country. Obviously, at the minute, I do a lot of media.
I’m really confident we can succeed; we can get the law changed. The petition only runs until April but I’ve already spoken to MPs, the local mayor and councillors and they are behind me. They really want the change as well.
What has your MP told you?
My local MP is Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor. His was the first office I got in contact with, and he was asking the Justice Secretary, Dominic Raab some questions. I’m just waiting to hear back from him now, but he seemed really supportive on this.
You need 10,000 signatures by April but you’re aiming much higher, right?
When we reach the 10,000 signatures the government will be responding. We’ve got almost 8,000 signatures right now…
Yes. The more the merrier. We’d like to get to 100,000 signatures. People from all around the country sign our petition – it’s not just where I live. This is an issue in the whole of the UK.
Have you ever spoken to the drug dealers who sold the MDMA to Leah?
No, and I don’t want it. It would be a big distraction. I’m busy working on the campaign and helping others.
Has any other parent who went through the same reached out?
Yes, we’re on social media, and people reach out to me. I’ve spoken to another lady whose son died from Fentanyl, a really powerful drug. She got the law changed and she’s been a massive help. If I want to speak to anyone, people are just so, so supportive.
What’s your ultimate goal here?
It’s the law change. That’s my main, main drive, but also looking to work with North Yorkshire Police. We’re doing a campaign called ‘Know MDMA?’ It’s about educating children, parents and teachers about the substance and the dangers that come with taking it.