A shop in Witney, Oxfordshire, has become the first in the county to be stripped of its alcohol licence. The decision follows several undercover stings by Oxfordshire County Council Trading Standards in which staff were caught selling illegal tobacco from the premises.
The sting operations were part of the council’s ‘commitment to helping residents live safe and healthy lives’.
Witney Polish Deli sold smuggled cigarettes that were retrieved from behind a curtain on four occasions last year. This resulted in two raids, seizure of contraband tobacco and the arrest of three people who work at the premises.
After a request to review the licence of the shop by Oxfordshire County Council’s Trading Standards, West Oxfordshire Council’s Licensing Panel agreed the premises had been actively involved in the sale of illegal cigarettes and revoked the licence.
The Panel heard that the owner of the shop had received a previous stringent warning along with a £6,000 penalty, following the seizure of thousands of smuggled cigarettes from another shop he used to own, and from his home, back in 2011.
A member of staff caught selling illicit tobacco during a test purchase admitted during interview that the shop had been selling smuggled cigarettes since it had opened and that all staff were told by the owner to do so.
After hearing the evidence, Chair of the Licensing Panel, Cllr Norman MacRae MBE, said: “By selling tobacco illegally, the premises’ operator has been undermining the crime and disorder licensing objective. West Oxfordshire District Council take matters such as these very seriously and fully support the work that Trading Standards have carried out, and had no option but to revoke their licence.”
Councillor Judith Heathcoat, the County Council’s cabinet member for Community Safety, said: “This decision sends a clear message to anyone involved in this kind of thoughtless and illegal activity. We will ensure that we catch you, and your licence will be at serious risk.
“Working with key partners, we remain committed to the disruption, investigation and prosecution of this criminal activity, protecting the health of Oxfordshire residents, both young and old alike”.
Anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco should contact 0300 999 6 999 or report it anonymously via the website www.stop-illegal-tobacco.co.uk