The rave drug Ecstasy is not particularly unhealthy and should never have been put in the same class as heroin, Court of Appeal judges said yesterday. 'Generally speaking, it is not causing an acute health problem,' Mr Justice Noel Power said. 'It's becoming a fashionable drug for young people to take. It is not a lethal substance.' His comments came at a landmark hearing that will set sentencing guidelines for Ecstasy offences. Defence barrister Wong Po-wing is asking the Court of Appeal to put Ecstasy on a par with opium - just above cannabis. His client, Lee Tak-kwan, was sentenced to 12 years in prison last March when Mr Justice Michael Stuart-Moore concluded the drug should be treated the same way as heroin. But the Court of Appeal has disagreed with him. 'We don't think Ecstasy can be equated with heroin,' Mr Justice Power said. Lee, 38, who had pleaded guilty to trafficking in 12,110 Ecstasy tablets with a street value of $3.6 million, is appealing against his sentence. Professor Julian Critchley, Dean of Clinical Pharmacology for the Chinese University of Hong Kong at Prince of Wales Hospital, took the stand. He described the rare cases of instant death as an 'idiosyncratic reaction' that could occur with any drug, illegal or otherwise. 'If you gave everyone in this court penicillin, someone could die. Every drug is potentially dangerous,' the professor said. Emergency room doctors in Britain, where Ecstasy was most popular, reported it was 'very, very uncommon for an Ecstasy user to cross their threshold', he said. 'You just don't see Ecstasy as a clinical poisoning problem as you do heroin,' he told the court. Nor was the drug to blame for a slow deterioration in general health, the professor testified. Reported cases of liver damage had all been associated with the rave scene, whose adherents stayed up all night dancing energetically. 'The drug is not insidious,' Professor Critchley said. 'What is insidious is the rave culture and you can't dissociate the two.' But he said that by far the most important point in Ecstasy's favour was the fact that it was totally non-addictive. 'I'm not saying Ecstasy is a good thing,' he said. 'It's a drug of abuse. But if you're going to scale it against heroin, heroin makes a nonsense of it.' Mr Justice Power, Mr Justice Simon Mayo and Mr Justice Barry Mortimer reserved their judgment.