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Shopkeeper blames underage alcohol sale on wife's lack of training

A shop which sold alcohol to an undercover 15-year-old girl has complained that she was well-built, tall and masked and appeared to look like an adult.

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Walsall Road in Great Barr, where Super Choice News is based. Photo: Google

And the owner of Super Choice News on Walsall Road, Great Barr, also said that the secret shopper entered the store while his wife was in a ‘distressed state’ on the telephone having learned of the death of her aunt.

The underage girl bought a bottle of WKD in a test purchase organised by police.

Officers have now claimed that the sale of alcohol to children appears to be an ongoing problem at the shop and argued for the shop to have its licence revoked.

The shop has refuted claims, with the owner explaining in a letter to the council that he faces bankruptcy if his licence is revoked.

Licensee Mr Sajjad said he was out of the country at the time and has since updated his wife's training.

Super Choice News is due before the council’s licensing committee next week after West Midlands Police called for a review of the licence following two incidents, with a letter to the council reading: “The sale of alcohol to children appears to be an ongoing problem at this premises.

“The fact the member of staff behind the till didn’t take any notice or challenge the child would indicate that selling alcohol to children is the norm in this premises.

“It has been noted that Trading Standards had previously visited in May 21 after receiving intelligence that the premises had sold alcohol to two 15 year old girls.

“On this occasion the premises was left a ‘Traders Notice’ by Trading Standards Officers who also spoke with Mr Sajjad (the premises licence holder and DPS) on the phone regarding the allegation, as he was not at the premises at the time of the visit.

“Only 5 months after the first visit, Trading Standards carried a test purchase operation using a 15 year old girl volunteer. The child was sold alcohol by the member of staff at the premises without question, not being asked for ID and in fact not even coming off the phone to serve her. Again, as the previous visit, the DPS & PLH was not at the premises.”

A witness statement from one of the officers on duty details how the girl was able to obtain a bottle of WKD during her visit in October without any issue, with the staff member ‘so uninterested in the purchase she remained on her mobile phone throughout’, according to the officer.

And the police said this incident has left them with no confidence in the licence holder, with a statement reading: “The sale of alcohol to children can only be monetary led and profit orientated. The possible consequences of such actions seemingly of no concern as long as money is ‘going in the till.’

“The effect of alcohol on children can be devastating and they are at increased risk of poor health, committing crime, being sexually exploited and poor educational results and missing periods of schooling. Drinking alcohol can affect a child’s normal development of vital organs and their functions including the brain, liver, bones and hormones.

“It is also noted that the premises have the following conditions imposed on their premises licence: The premises should adopt a challenge 21 policy – obviously this has not been the case.

“West Midlands Police have no confidence in the management of these premises promoting the licensing objectives especially the protection of children from harm, prevention of crime & disorder and public safety, putting money and profit over their legal and moral responsibilities.”

Responding to the allegations, Mr Sajjad said: “I do not wish to participate nor be represented at the hearing. This is because I feel it is not necessary, as I will list reasons below in my defence. My statement as as follows:

“1. I wish to totally refute that this has been an ongoing problem at the premises.

“2. Regarding the incident in May 2021, I was at the time visiting Pakistan due to family problems. Due to Covid, I got stuck in the country for much longer than planned and had intended. I had left an additional member of staff and my wife to run the store. It is my opinion, that although I has given them both adequate training and warnings, that these unfortunately were not followed through.

“3. On the second time or the latest occasion, my wife was on the phone because her aunt had just passed away in Pakistan and she was in a very distressed state. The customer to whom the alcohol was sold was masked due to the Covid protection and was well built and tall and thus appeared to be an adult. It was because of this that this very serious mistake was made. We both apologise profusely for these two incidents.

“4. I have since this incident, updated the training of my wife Asma Nosheen Sajjad, to ensure that nothing like this will ever occur again.

“5. I humbly request that my licence is not revoked, as it is the main means of my livelihood. I cannot make enough money from the other items sold on the premises to meet the very high overhead costs. I will therefore be forced into bankruptcy and close down. Also, If I were to try and sell the business, it will be very unlikely that I could sell it without the permission to sell Alcohol. This is because of the location of the premises and the very high overhead costs attached, as I have been advised by estate agents.”

The hearing is due to take place next Wednesday.

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