Projects that have raised awareness of allergens, tackled illegal dog breeding, promoted diversity and safeguarded child safety were among the important pieces of Trading Standards work recognised at the 2023 CTSI Hero Awards. The awards ceremony, which took place in the Houses of Parliament on 22 November, honoured the achievements of some of consumer protection’s best and brightest over the past 12 months.
Yvonne Fovargue MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Consumer Protection, got proceedings under way. “The Hero Awards are a great opportunity to recognise and celebrate those who’ve gone the extra mile, those who’ve made an impact and an outstanding contribution to consumer protection,” she said. “You’ll hear many inspiring stories that demonstrate the dedication, hard work and courage of those working on the front line.”
CTSI Chair James Munro and BTHA Head of Compliance Jerry Burnie OBE followed, each praising the impressive work of the winners and nominees. “Trading Standards is essential to support the very fabric of society,” Burnie told the audience. “You’re often doing work in difficult conditions, with limited resources and backup — and we do appreciate it.”
The first award of the evening was for Diversity and Inclusion, and went to the London Branch Trading Standards Race and Equalities Working Group. The group was praised for ‘making a significant impact over the past 12 months, not just in London but nationally.’ Judges highlighted the work that the group has carried out through its campaigns on skin lightening creams and Hajj travel packages.
Highly commended in the same category was Sophie Leney, Head of Trading Standards at Norfolk County Council, who was praised for her commitment to ‘breaking down barriers and embracing diversity and inclusion’. She was particularly singled out for her work in mentoring and supporting Trading Standards apprentices.
The Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT) won the next award, for Best Product Safety Initiative. CAPT was praised for ‘working tirelessly to prevent death and serious injury to children from avoidable accidents’, with particular recognition for the efforts of Chief Executive, Katrina Phillips OBE, to ‘keep child safety high on the agenda of policy makers, professionals, carers and parents’.
“I’m so proud of my team, and it’s something that we feel really passionate about,” Phillips said afterwards. “The risks posed by products that are available to ordinary families are increasing. Despite the best efforts of Trading Standards, many of the products that people are buying from online marketplaces can kill children and cause life-changing injuries.
“Online marketplaces need to be better regulated. It’s too easy for third-party sellers to evade their responsibilities. Consumers expect that what they buy has been independently tested and certified safe — the vast majority don’t realise that they can be exposing their children to risk. Product safety needs to be a really important priority for the current and any future government,” she added.
North Lanarkshire Trading Standards and Police Scotland were the winners of the Outstanding Trading Standards Project award, in recognition of their joint action to tackle under-age sales, doorstep crime, anti-counterfeiting and other aspects of serious and organised crime. Michelle McKenna, Trading Standards Manager at North Lanarkshire Council, took to the stage to accept the award.
Highly commended in the same category was Daniel Lowbridge, Tobacco Control Officer at Lincolnshire Trading Standards. He was praised for his work with young people through the ‘Vaping: Have a BLAST?’ workshops he runs. Since the project began in 2022 there have been 137 workshops to challenge myths around youth vaping, attended by more than 6,500 young people.
Up next was the CTSI Brian Smith Hero Award, named in honour of the late Angus Council Trading Standards Officer whose tireless work to combat scammers was instrumental in promoting call blockers and protecting the vulnerable from doorstep crime. The worthy winner was Andrew Turner, Scams Intervention and Prevention Officer at Lincolnshire Trading Standards, who last year supported 93 people who have either experienced fraud or were at risk of being scammed, many of them socially isolated and with no other support network available.
Highly commended in the category was Sally Wilson, Manager of the Age UK Cheshire East Scams project.
The inaugural Megan Lee Award followed, a tribute to the teenager whose tragic death as the result of an allergic reaction to an Indian takeaway led her parents, Gemma and Adam Lee, to embark on a national mission to raise the profile of allergen awareness. The Lees presented the award to Alison Richardson of Staffordshire Trading Standards, whose Operation Taste initiative involved food inspections and provided guidance to more than 2,500 food retail premises. The project resulted in multiple product recalls and notifications made to the FSA Incidents Team.
The BBC Scam Interceptors team won the Business Award, in recognition of their work to hunt down scammers and fraudsters operating from illegal call centres. The programme’s presenter, Rav Wilding, accepted the award via video.
Next up, the Intellectual Property Award went to Doug Love, Senior Trading Standards Officer at Hammersmith and Fulham. Love was recognised for his work on the Flawless TV piracy case, in which a criminal gang pocketed £6m by selling knock-off TV subscription packages. Love’s efforts resulted in five defendants being convicted and sentenced to a combined 30 years imprisonment, in what is reputed to be the biggest ever copyright case of its kind in the world.
The team at Rochdale Trading Standards were highly commended in the same category for their work on Operation Vulcan, a multi-agency initiative to combat counterfeiting on the streets of Manchester. One investigation as part of the initiative resulted in the disruption of a major organised counterfeit goods distribution network estimated to be worth £65m per year.
Caerphilly Trading Standards were the deserving winners of the Institute’s Heroes 2023 Award, for their work to combat unlicensed dog breeders. The team’s efforts have resulted in animals being rescued from suffering, enabling them to be rehabilitated and rehomed. It has also resulted in several prosecutions.
Wayne David, MP for Caerphilly, presented the award and afterwards commented: “Trading Standards covers so many aspects of our lives and our Trading Standards department does a very, very good job. They have taken the lead in getting to the root of the main causes of illegal dog breeding. Their work has been exemplary.
“The ceremony as a whole has really brought home to me how broad the work of Trading Standards is. There are so many facets of an individual’s life which are governed by standards — or the lack of standards — surrounding products and services across the whole length and breadth of the country.”
Justin Miller, Team Leader at Southwark Trading Standards, was highly commended for his considerable achievements in Proceeds of Crime cases, netting a grand total of £3.2m in confiscation orders across 32 investigations. Miller was also praised for his passion for mentoring and supporting team members.
The evening’s final order of business was to name the Young Consumer Influencer of the Year, in recognition of people under the age of 18 who have brought consumer protection into the social media spotlight for young people. The winners were from the Washington Youth Council, and they delivered a rousing spoken-word performance about the dangers of loan sharks and illegal money-lending.
One of the evening’s attendees was Jess Phillips, MP for Birmingham Yardley. Speaking to the Journal of Trading Standards after the ceremony, she said: “It seems like such a small thing, the idea of consumer protection, but to my constituents, it matters that these things are regulated and standards are met.
“It is fundamental, the idea that we live in a country that has standards such as the rule of law and the idea that truth trumps opinion. These are British values that I think have been degraded over time and I’m really grateful to generations gone by that set up Institutions to protect people against things like scams, because I’m not sure that today, setting up Institutions like this would be possible.
“Trading Standards Officers like those in my constituency ensure that people aren’t being scammed, that people aren’t being poisoned. It’s not a small thing, that people’s rights are protected. But it’s often seen as a ‘nice to have’ by people who have enough money to never need protection.
“We need to have an enormous review of exactly how we deal with a consumer environment that has raced ahead of us in terms of regulation. Trading Standards and enforcement need to be not just about resources, but also about having the teeth and power to actually do something.”
In emotional closing remarks at the end of the ceremony, CTSI Chair James Munro dedicated the event to Megan Lee’s memory.