In the four years since it was set up, the West Yorkshire Trading Standards Illegal Tobacco team has had many significant successes. And now the operation, which is part-funded by five local authority Public Health Teams, has been awarded a Yorkshire and Humber award for going above and beyond the call of duty.
Since it was established the team has:
- Seized over 4.25 million cigarettes and 1.2 tonnes of hand rolling tobacco;
- Prosecuted 35 offenders linked to the supplies;
- Been involved in 78 multi-agency operations;
- Conducted 10 Premises Licence Reviews – resulting in full revocation of alcohol licence;
- Achieved eight landlord evictions of problem traders where illegal activities were taking place;
- Engaged with front-line workers to raise awareness of illegal tobacco;
- Made a number of referrals to the modern slavery network to safeguard potential victims;
- Worked with immigration to fine employers of illegal immigrants up to £20k;
- Worked with HMRC to lay non-duty offences for cigarettes and alcohol;
- Worked with WYP to carry out searches of private accommodation and storage units, and seize large quantities of cash as part of proceeds of crime;
- Worked with partners to seize vehicles where illegal tobacco is being stored;
- Worked with the councils Rogue Landlord Unit to identify benefit fraud for residential premises being used as a business
Increasingly the team is finding evidence of serious organised criminality where the “front door” is illicit tobacco sales but behind that is the more sinister business of people trafficking and modern slavery. As a consequence, a number of victims in the supply chain have been referred as victims to the Modern Slavery Network for help and support.
Above and beyond
The tobacco team was recognised for its hard work and dedication by the Yorkshire and the Humber branch of the CTSI at its recent branch meeting in Sheffield, being awarded the annual Carolyne Dollins Memorial Award. This prize is awarded to individuals or teams that have gone above and beyond in their duties in protecting consumers and communities.
Carolyne was a Trading Standards Officer who sadly passed away in January 2017. She was well known throughout the Yorkshire and the Humber region and beyond for her passion and tenacity for Trading Standards in tackling illegal activities, whether that be doorstep criminals targeting vulnerable residents or dealing with organised criminals and fraudsters. The Memorial Award was created in her honour to highlight Trading Standards work across the Region and the West Yorkshire illegal tobacco team has demonstrated the passion and tenacity that Carolyne was known for and are delighted to accept the award.
David Lodge, Head of West Yorkshire Trading Standards, said: “Tackling illicit tobacco supplies is critical, given the links to other organised criminality, human trafficking and modern slavery. The work of our team has been identified as best practice nationally and to receive this Memorial Award demonstrates how valued its work is across the region. Carolyne was a much-loved colleague known for her passion and dedication to the job and it is fitting that such an award is presented to colleagues who have shown those same levels of dedication.”
Councillor Jo Hepworth, Chair of the West Yorkshire Joint Services Committee, which oversees the work of Trading Standards, said: “It is great to hear that the Illegal Tobacco Team have been recognised in this way. The supply of illegal tobacco remains a problem in our local communities. While we know all smoking kills, illegal tobacco is a danger to health, particularly to young people as it is sold at pocket money prices, making it is easier for children to start smoking. It also encourages other crimes in our communities.
“If you need to report a trader selling cheap and illegal tobacco, please contact the Illegal Tobacco Hotline on 0300 999 0000 and the dedicated team at West Yorkshire Trading Standards will carry out an inspection.”