A County Durham shop that was repeatedly found to be selling illicit tobacco has been shut down for three months.
The Yellow Shop in Bishop Auckland has been ordered to close by magistrates following a successful application by Durham County Council.
The application was made on the back of illicit tobacco being sold from the premises on Newgate Street in ten test purchase operations carried out by the council.
“We are pleased that the court has closed this shop for three months following our application,” Owen Cleugh, Durham County Council’s safer places manager, said.
“Despite being warned not to sell illicit tobacco, the premises was found to be doing exactly that during ten test purchase operations. The items they were selling were suspected to be counterfeit and did not comply with the requirements for standardised packaging and health warnings.”
Peterlee magistrates heard how council officers first visited the premises on 10 November last year in response to information from the public about the sale of illicit tobacco.
Officers seized 56 electronic cigarettes and warned the premises that the selling of illicit tobacco must cease.
However, from 15 November 2022 to 4 July 2023, nine test purchases took place and on each occasion illicit cigarettes were sold.
A warrant was executed at the premises on 4 July, with support from Durham Constabulary, and a large quantity of illicit tobacco was seized – more than 25,000 cigarettes.
A further test purchase took place on 12 July and again illicit cigarettes were sold from the shop.
A council officer made a further visit to the premises on 21 July accompanied by detection dog Mostyn. Once again, a substantial amount of illicit cigarettes and tobacco products was found.
A closure notice was served on the property by the council, leading to the authority applying for a closure order in court, again with support from police.
The premises was not represented in court to contest the application and magistrates granted a three-month closure which runs until 24 October.
Inspector Andy Reeves, who led the police search operation, said: “Police in Bishop Auckland and specialist search teams supported Trading Standards in an operation targeting counterfeit goods.
“Sophisticated hides were located and several thousand counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco were seized.
“This activity impacts on other local businesses and potentially the health of those people buying items that have not passed the required quality checks for the UK market.”