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Three month closure for shop linked to illegal tobacco sales

Published: Friday, 15th November 2019

A convenience store which continually sold illegal cigarettes and tobacco has been closed for three months following investigations by Stoke-on-Trent Trading Standards.

Piccadilly Minimarket, on Piccadilly, in Hanley, repeatedly sold illegal tobacco to customers and undercover officers over several years.

Yesterday at North Staffordshire Justice Centre, Stoke-on-Trent City Council sought and was granted a closure order against the premises. The order means the shop will remain closed to the public until February 13, 2020.

Since June 2015 there have been nine occasions where illegal tobacco has been seized from the shop or bought through test purchase operations. During one trading standards operation in May 2018, 1,628 packets of illegal cigarettes and 216 pouches of illegal hand rolling tobacco were seized from the premises, with a combined street value of £16,862.

It is the first time the city council’s trading standards team has used the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 to close down a shop. It gives councils and the police powers to issue closure notices if they are satisfied that the use of a premises has resulted in nuisance to the public or public disorder.

Cllr Randy Conteh, cabinet member for communities and safer city, said: “The shop has been a frequent seller of illegal tobacco, and this has continued despite warnings, enforcement action and court prosecutions over the last four years. It had got to the point where we had to look at doing something different and going one step further. The shop had become a nuisance to the community, to legitimate retailers nearby who were losing trade as a result, and to the fire service who view illegal cigarettes as being an increased fire risk.

"While all smoking is harmful, illegal tobacco is sold at low prices and without the necessary health warnings which makes it easier for children and young smokers to get hooked on smoking and harder for people to quit.

“The council has a duty to take positive action on anti-social behaviour where it is impacting on the community, and this closure should send a strong message out to businesses who refuse to co-operate with authorities when it comes to making the city a better place to live. I'm pleased that the magistrates have shared our concerns about these premises and have agreed to the closure order."

Breaching a closure order is a criminal offence and carries a penalty of either imprisonment of up to 6 months, or an unlimited fine, or both.

Anyone with information on illegal tobacco sales should call the Fakes Hotline on 01782 238444.

For all media enquiries please contact the Communications Department at Stoke-on-Trent City Council on 01782 232987 (journalists only)