Five shops on same Black Country street shut down for selling illegal tobacco
Five shops caught selling illegal tobacco in the Black Country have been forced to close for three months after a landmark case.
Dudley Council's trading standards team were granted five closure orders by Dudley Magistrates Court to stop the illegal activity on Brierley Hill High Street.
Eazy Shop, Day 2 Day, Istanbul, Polo Mini Market and ASA Mini Market have all shut down after officers investigated reports of suspicious activity.
The team built a bank of evidence against each shop and visited each one on November 18, along with police, to serve a 24-hour closure notice.
The notices were extended until a full hearing took place on November 28 – with magistrates ordering all of the shops close for a minimum of three months.
The case is the first of its kind in the country where a local authority has used its powers to take five premises to court at the same time.
Deborah Harkins, director responsible for trading standards, said: "We are really pleased with the result from court.
"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."
The council used its powers under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 to close shops which are causing "nuisance and disorder".
Brierley Hill's neighbourhood police Insp Jo Myatt-Jones 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 tnit to utilise all the legislation at our disposal to protect the public."
It comes after a similar case in December last year where European Food Express, on Dudley High Street, was closed for six months after it was found to be persistently dealing in illegal tobacco.
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