Five shops profiting from the sale of illegal tobacco have today been hit with closure orders following a landmark case, successfully brought to court by Dudley Trading Standards.
The Dudley Council-run team were today (November 28) granted five closure orders by Dudley Magistrates Court to put a stop to the illegal activity taking place in five shops on Brierley Hill High Street.
This is the first case of its kind in the country where a local authority has used its powers to take five premises to court at the same time.
The council has used its civil powers under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 to close premises which are causing ‘nuisance and disorder’.
The team has spent recent months investigating reports and suspicious activity to build a bank of evidence against Eazy Shop, Day 2 Day, Istanbul, Polo Mini Market and ASA Mini Market on the town’s High Street for dealing in illegal tobacco.
On November 18, trading standards officers with the support of the police visited all five properties to serve a 24-hour closure notice. The following day, on November 19, the closure notices were extended until the full hearing of the case in court today. Magistrates ordered all five shops to close for a minimum of three months.
Deborah Harkins, director responsible for trading standards, said:
We are really pleased with the result from court today. This is a ground-breaking case, which has seen our trading standards officers work extensively to build up a bank of evidence against these five shops, which have continued to flout the law and sell illegal products on the High Street.
Not only are these products even more harmful to people’s health, these rogue premises are failing to pay their taxes, which is unfair on those trading legitimately in the town.
We’ll now be working with the landlords of all five properties to ensure they let their premises to reputable, legitimate people in the future.
As an authority we remain committed to regenerating Brierley Hill High Street and supporting those traders who are working hard to earn an honest living.
We are working with local communities and traders to secure millions of pounds of investment through a number of initiatives to support our ambitions.
Jo Myatt-Jones, Brierley Hill neighbourhood policing Inspector, said:
Unfortunately the sale of illicit and counterfeit cigarettes is not a victimless crime. The illegal trade causes nuisance, disorder and crime affecting our communities and can be intrinsically linked with organised criminality such as drug dealing, money laundering, slavery and people trafficking.
Illegal cigarettes contain significantly more harmful chemicals than legal tobacco products. They burn quicker and do not self-extinguish, making them much more likely to cause a fire - and money made from the sale of these harmful products deprives the taxpayer of money that could otherwise be spent on schools and hospitals.
These closures should serve as a warning to those who engage in criminal activity. If you have something to hide, we will take action.
We have a fantastic working relationship with Dudley Council and we will work together with their Trading Standards Unit to utilise all the legislation at our disposal to protect the public.
In a similar case back in December 2018 Dudley Trading Standards successfully used its civil powers to close European Food Express on Dudley High Street for six months after it was found to be persistently dealing in illegal tobacco.