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    Hartlepool store loses licence over illicit vape sale

    11 O’Clock Shop in Stockton Road, Hartlepool. (Photo: Google Maps via LDRS)

    By: Nic Marko, Local Democracy Reporter

    A convenience store is to have its licence revoked following concerns around “illicit vapes” being sold.

    Hartlepool Borough Council trading standards officers called for a hearing to review the licence of 11 O’Clock Shop in Stockton Road after executing a warrant alongside police in November.

    133 illegal vapes were found with an estimated value of £1,729, with 33 below the shop counter and 100 in a van outside, which belonged to store boss Devinder Malhotra.

    The visit came after a council officer made a test purchase of an “illegal to be sold” vape at the shop earlier that month.

    The council’s licensing sub-committee met on Tuesday and decided to revoke the store’s licence, meaning it will no longer be able to sell alcohol.

    Josh Maitland, from the trading standards team, said they believe the offence “casts significant doubt on Mr Malhotra’s suitability to be licensed to sell alcohol”.

    PC Clare Lawton added the illegal sale of vapes indicates a “strong chance they are also engaging in other illegal activity such as underage sales”.

    Mr Malhotra claimed the illicit devices were delivered to the store when he was not there as a “free sample” from a former wholesale rep, who had since become self-employed.

    He continued: “When I came back, I phoned him and said take it back please, I don’t want to sell these.”

    He added the loose devices which remained under the counter were not there to be sold and were for his “brother to use”.

    A council officer had previously made a test purchase of an illicit vape at the store in October 2022, with a subsequent search uncovering 296 devices, which led to a “final written warning”.

    Mr Malhotra has 21 days to lodge an appeal to magistrates’ court if he wishes.

    (Local Democracy Reporting Service)

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