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    Daughter vows to turn family shop around after illegal worker sold vape to teenager

    Luxa Sparkles, Cherry Hinton Road, Cambridge. (Photo: Google Street View via LDRS)

    By: Hannah Brown, Local Democracy Reporter

    A daughter has said she will not let things “get out of hand again” at a family shop after an illegal worker was caught selling a vape to a teenager.

    Luxa Shiny Mariflo said she had not been aware of how the shop in Cambridge had been run by her parents, but said when she found out, she had taken control and put in place “big changes”.

    The Home Office had called for the premises licence for Luxa Sparkles, in Cherry Hinton Road, to be revoked after its immigration officers found an illegal worker at the shop.

    Immigration officers visited the shop on 20 November last year, where they found the man behind the counter serving a customer.

    The Home Office said the man had entered the country illegally by a small boat in May 2022 and did not have the right to work in the UK.

    A report shared by the Home Office said the man told immigration officers that he had been shown how to use the shop’s till, but had not received any training on selling age restricted products, like alcohol.

    The premises licence holder at the time was Priyamwatha Mariflo. She told immigration officers that the man did not work at the shop, but would “shadow” her.

    Immigration officers also found vapes advertised for sale at the shop that contained over the legal limit of 600 puffs, with some advertised as including 10,000 puffs. The officers also found nitrous oxide canisters behind the counter.

    The Home Office report said: “Whether by negligence or wilful blindness, an illegal worker was engaged in employment and licensable activity on the premises.

    Although the licence holder denied that the person was working, it is clear from the evidence provided that the person was solely responsible for running the premises and the sale of alcohol during the enforcement visit.

    It is considered that the licence holder attempted to deceive officers that the person was working illegally.

    Trading Standards officers raised concerns about the shop and the eligibility of the man to work in the UK after a number of visits to the store.

    Papers shared by Trading Standards set out that it had received a number of complaints over the last few years about the shop selling age restricted products to teenagers. Trading Standards said a can of beer was sold to a 15-year-old volunteer at a test purchasing exercise in August 2022.

    After advice was given to the shop from Trading Standards, the sale of alcohol to a 14-year-old at a later test purchase exercise was refused.

    However, in August 2023 a vape was sold to a 16-year-old volunteer in a third test purchase exercise, which was sold by the man who did not have the right to work in the UK.

    Trading Standards prosecuted the shop for selling the vape to a teenager. The business pleaded guilty and was issued with a £1,000 fine, and was also ordered to pay costs of £250 and a £400 victim surcharge.

    Cambridge City Council held a licensing sub-committee meeting on 22 April to review the shop’s licence and decide whether to revoke it as the Home Office requested.

    An environmental health officer told councillors that the city council had received six complaints about the shop over the past six years. They added that no other business in the city had received a similar level of complaints.

    The officer said: “Despite persistent warnings to the business, complaints have continued. Recommendations provided by the licensing authority and the police have also seemingly been ignored. This calls into question whether the licence holder is sufficiently promoting the licensing objectives, namely the prevention of crime and disorder and protection of children from harm.”

    Licensing officers confirmed that the premises licence had already been transferred from Mrs Mariflo to her daughter, after no objections about this transfer were raised by the police.

    Daughter vows to turn family shop around after illegal worker sold vape to teenager
    Luxa Shiny Mariflo, speaking at Cambridge City Council meeting on April 22, 2024. Image taken from meeting recording. (Photo via LDRS)

    A statement from Mrs Mariflo was shared with the meeting, where she confirmed that she had “relinquished all responsibility” for the shop after admitting to having “fallen short of the responsibilities”.

    Councillor Russ McPherson asked how the family knew the man who had been found illegally working at the shop by immigration officers.

    Mr Mariyanayagam Mariflo said the man came from the same area as him in Sri Lanka. He told the meeting that he did not know he had come to the UK until the man got in contact to say he did not have anywhere to live.

    Mr Mariflo explained he had offered him a place to stay, but was then given advice from a doctor about the man’s mental health and was advised not to leave him on his own.

    Mr Mariflo said the man went wherever he did, including to the shop. However, Mr Mariflo said when the immigration visit happened, he was in Sri Lanka.

    Ms Mariflo said she had been “unaware” of what had been happening when her parents were running the shop. She also said her dad was unaware about the man’s right to work status and confirmed that her dad had been in Sri Lanka at the time of the immigration officer’s visit. She added that she did not know what her mum had said in her interview, but said she was “clearly more aware of things”.

    Ms Mariflo told councillors that when she found out what had been going on she had decided to take over the shop.

    Ms Mariflo confirmed that there were now no longer any illegal products in the shop and said she had taken sole responsibility for checking all stock orders to make sure nothing is in the shop that should not be. She told councillors there will be “big changes” and said she will be at the shop every day.

    Ms Mariflo said: “The reason I want to get so involved with this is, we have had the shop since 2007, I was five at that point, so it is very close to my heart. It is also our main source of income, it is what has brought us to where we sort of are now and it is not something I am going to let slide easily.

    “As soon as I heard there was all of this stuff going on, they did not keep me involved for a very long time, but as soon as I heard it was going on I stepped in and said I have decided to take over now. I can assure you it is going to be under full control now that I am here. It has always been a very important place for me growing up, so I will not let anything get out of hand again.”

    The sub-committee decided not to revoke the licence, but recommended that a licensing inspection should take place within the next six months.

    Cllr McPherson said this decision had been reached after hearing Ms Mariflo’s “commitment to uphold the licensing objectives”. He added that no objections had been raised to Ms Mariflo taking over the licence for the shop, and that there was no evidence that she would not correctly follow the licensing objectives.


    (Local Democracy Reporting Service)

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