Ashington shop loses alcohol licence after repeatedly found selling illicit tobacco

Photo: Northumberland County Council

A shop that persistently sold illicit tobacco in Ashington has had its licence to sell alcohol revoked by Northumberland County Council.

Euro Express at 19 Lintonville Terrace, Ashington opened its doors just over a year ago and was granted a licence to sell alcohol. However, almost immediately from the time of opening, Trading Standards received complaints about the sale of illicit tobacco from under the counter and further allegations of underage sales taking place on the premises.

Trading Standards officers carried out multiple visits to the premises and quantities of illicit tobacco were repeatedly seized. This was found in concealed hiding places within the walls and flooring of the storeroom, or in black holdalls hidden from sight on the shop floor.

In January this year, after warnings to the business went ignored, Trading Standards applied to the Magistrates Court under the provisions of the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 and the business was ordered to close for a period of two months.

The shop reopened for business on 28 March 2022 and within 24 hours, Trading Standards had received information that sales of illicit tobacco had resumed. Complaints were also made that the shop was selling vaping devices to underage children.

In response to this, a test purchase of illicit hand rolling tobacco was made by officers. A follow up visit led to the seizure of over 1,000 illicit cigarettes, 1.6kg of illicit hand rolling tobacco and almost 100 illegal vaping devices.

It was also found by officers that several licence conditions were being breached; the shop had no operational CCTV, no refusals book in which refused attempts at underage sales can be recorded and no demonstrable commitment to follow an age verification policy such as ‘Challenge 25’.

As a result, Trading Standards asked the Council Licensing Sub-Committee to formally review the licence to sell alcohol.

The hearing was held in the council chamber at County Hall in Morpeth on 16 June where it was determined by the sub-committee members that the premises licence would be revoked. In making their decision, they stated that there was no faith that if the premises licence continued, that the licence holder would uphold the licensing objectives.

“The outcome of the hearing reinforces the message that this council, will not allow criminal activity in business premises to go unchallenged,” Cllr Colin Horncastle, cabinet member for community services, said. “We expect high standards from licensed premises and those who deliberately disregard the rules and regulations, can expect to face action.

“Euro Express has been given ample opportunity by Trading Standards to comply with the legal requirements and the licensing objectives that go hand-in-hand with these.

“The sale of illicit tobacco is far from being a victimless crime. Its low price discourages existing smokers from quitting and can encourage non-smokers such as children to try it. The health problems that are associated with addiction are well documented and we must ensure that we protect our communities from this harm – particularly children.

“All members of the public can play their part and I encourage anyone with information about the supply of illicit tobacco or underage sales, no matter how small, to report it to Trading Standards. All information is handled confidentially and can also be given anonymously.”