A public school deputy head has slammed Britain’s “soft” drugs culture after his 16-year-old son died taking ecstasy at a nightclub.
Joe Simons, who got nine A* grades at GCSE, was let into a rave night despite being underage and having no valid ID.
He bought 1.5g of the ecstasy powder MDMA from a dealer inside the club but collapsed hours later and died in hospital the next day.
The inquest into his death heard that it was just the second time he had dabbled with the drug.
Friends told the hearing that dealers were “openly” selling drugs at Lakota nightclub in Bristol, which had its licence suspended after Joe’s death.
Yesterday his father Tom, 51, hit out at Britain’s “complacent” attitude towards drug culture, which is “spreading like a cancer”.
Deputy Avon Coroner Terence Moore, sitting at Flax Bourton near Bristol, said he would write to Avon and Somerset Constabulary regarding licensing laws.
In a statement read to the inquest, Mr Simons – deputy head of £25,000-per-year Prior Park College in Bath, Somerset – said: “Joe is in many ways an indictment of our failure as a society to tackle the scourge of drugs.
“There are no easy answers of course and we are daily beset by the views and advice of the well meaning and the misguided – urging us to legalise drugs or build more jails.
“Experts’ in the field are legion, as sadly are the lives touched by the drugs culture that seems to have spread like a cancer across the globe.
“It is complacency that is the greatest challenge to us all. We never think it will happen to us or our loved ones. We trust that it will not be our child who will be tempted.
“After all, we teach our children the dangers of taking drugs and that is enough. Well sadly not, as poor Joe souls like Joe and countless others will attest to.
“Until society as a whole stands up and says no to the dealers and no to those in the media and entertainments industry who glorify and trivialise the taking of drugs, we will continue to count the cost in lives lost and families left bereft.
“It is our profound hope that Joe’s untimely death will serve as a warning to young people of the dangers of taking drugs like MDMA and the far from benign influence that some would have us believe the ‘soft’ drugs culture has on young people.”
The inquest heard how gifted Joe, who aspired to go to Oxford or Cambridge University, had been to Lakota once before his death on May 2 last year.
In March he and three friends went to the club’s Tribe of Frog dance night where they got in without being asked for identification.
Joe, who had a friend’s brother’s passport on him, then bought some MDMA from a reveller for #20 at the venue, in the Stokes Croft area of Bristol.
They had been told it would be a good drug to take by one of the group’s older brothers.
Gabriel Wheatcroft, Joe’s best friend, in a written statement to his inquest, said: “We had researched it online and thought it would good to use it.
“Once in the club Joe purchased MDMA – there were dealers going around quite openly.”
After feeling no ill effects, they all left when the night finished – at 7am the next morning.
The group, along with four other mates – one aged just 15 – then decided to head back to Lakota on the next Tribe of Frogs night on April 30.
Joe, from Bitton, near Bristol, who attended Beechen Cliff sixth form, in Bath, once again bought around 1.5g of the white crystalline substance from a clubber.
He then split it up between his friends and washed it down with water, at around 11.30pm.
The group separated – but a short time later pals saw Joe having to be supported.
Gabriel said: “I saw Joe being supported. He looked grey and was staring into the distance. They came outside the club and laid him on the floor.
“I heard one of the door staff saying that if they were asked, they would say he bought it (the ecstasy) earlier from another club.”
Joe was rushed to intensive care at Bristol Royal Infirmary in the early hours of May 1 and died the following day.
Toxicology results revealed he had around 0.98 micrograms of the drug in his blood.
Pathologist Dr Edward Sheffield revealed a normal recreational level for the drug would be about 0.2 micrograms.
Mr Simons told the inquest that his son’s death had been a “tsunami” on their family – as Joe’s mum Brenda had died from lung cancer three years ago.
The deputy head at his son’s former school, Prior Park College in Bath, said: “To lose a child is every parent’s worst nightmare.
“It can seem as if the sparkle and magic that is life has been extinguished.
“Coming so soon after the death of his mother, Joe’s untimely death has felt to the family as if a tsunami has struck, and rebuilding our lives has seemed to be a task beyond our all to frail capacities.
“But rebuild we must. This strength has come from family and friends but mostly from our memories of Joe, an intelligent, compassionate and above all loving young man.
“He was in part our son, our brother, and our best friend, always with that cheeky smile, but always with a care for those who were lucky enough to be part of his life.”
Deputy coroner Terence Moore gave his verdict at the inquest as ‘death through non-dependant use of drugs’ and said he would issue a report to Avon and Somerset Police.
He said: “I will be writing to the chief constable in relation to the use of powers and licensing laws.
“The sad but not unique thing about this inquest is the belief by those who take MDMA that it is somehow safe.
“The evidence I have heard is that it is an idiosyncratic drug and affects different people in different ways.
“Taking a drug when you don’t know how much you are taking or indeed what is in it, on the advice of a stranger, seems a particularly unsafe thing to do.
“Sadly in this case it cost the life of Joe.”
Lakota’s licence was suspended by Bristol City Council after the incident, but a police investigation resulted in no arrests and it has now re-opened.
After the tragedy, its owner Martin Burgess said: “As a nightclub and long-standing member of the community, we take the welfare of our customers very seriously and consequently we are conducting our own thorough investigation.”