28/02/2019 - Permalink

Whitchurch shopkeeper prosecuted over illegal tobacco and underage sales

Related topics: Public protection / Uncategorized

A person who ran an off-licence in Whitchurch has been prosecuted for a range of criminal offences by Shropshire Council’s trading standards service.  Steven Clark of Brookside, Telford appeared at Telford Magistrates Court on Monday 18 February 2019.  He pleaded guilty to a total of 14 offences relating to possession of counterfeit tobacco and other goods, the sale of tobacco to an underage person and breaching UK Safety Regulations relating to the packaging of and health warnings on tobacco and related products.

He was sentenced to a 12-month community order to perform 80 hours of unpaid work and a further 10 rehabilitation activity hours.  He was ordered to pay a contribution of £400 towards prosecution costs as well as £85 victim surcharge.  The Court also ordered the forfeiture and destruction of all items seized.

On two occasions in July 2018 trading standards officers seized a variety of counterfeit and smuggled cigarettes and tobacco at The Local on Whitchurch High Street; they also seized vodka destined for export and a large quantity of vaping liquid refills containing nicotine which contravened UK Safety Regs.

Despite being under investigation and interviewed about these offences and claiming to operate a ‘Challenge 25’ policy, in October 2018, Mr Clark went on and sold a packet of cigarettes to a 16-year-old girl as part of a trading standards test purchasing exercise.

On 7 November 2018, Shropshire Council’s Licensing Sub-Committee revoked the Premises Licence that had allowed the sale of alcohol at the premises, due to the matters that had arisen out of the trading standards investigation.

Speaking after last week’s prosecution Grant Tunnadine, investigation, compliance and intervention team manager for trading standards, said:

”The sale of illegal tobacco and selling age restricted products to minors are offences that we take very seriously.  People who deal in illegal tobacco, where the selling price is much lower, are more likely to encourage others – especially children and young adults – to smoke.  This case demonstrated that not only was this this trader dealing in illegal tobacco but that he was clearly prepared to sell tobacco products to children.  I welcome the sentence handed out by the court and hope this serves as a reminder to those that consider the sale of illicit tobacco to be a victimless crime to think again and for all traders to ensure that they adopt the procedures necessary to prevent illegal sales to minors.”

Gwilym Butler, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for communities and place planning, added:

“This prosecution should send a strong message to those involved in this illegal trade that this activity will not be tolerated. It concerns me that those selling illegal tobacco clearly have no regard to other legal controls and as this case shows are willing to sell cigarettes to minors. As well as the obvious health concerns this raises, legitimate businesses in Shropshire will inevitably be losing customers to the illegal trade in tobacco.”

Consumers who are concerned about any product on sale are encouraged to report the matter to the Citizens Advice Consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 06, with whom Shropshire Council’s public protection team works in partnership.