By Joe Coughlan, Local Democracy Reporter
A South London shop has avoided closure after being caught selling a vape and booze to children.
The Costcutter store on Wickham Lane has been allowed to stay open after Greenwich Council officers found a trainee staff member had sold a can of beer and nicotine vape to two teenagers involved in a sting operation.
The incident occurred on May 30 when the trainee, Thavaselvan Sithamparapillai, reportedly sold the items to a pair of 14 and 15-year-old volunteers. Thayalan Punniyamoorthy, the owner of the Abbey Wood store, told council officers afterwards that he was away visiting family when the sale took place and the trainee had since been asked not to return to the business.
The shop was reportedly fined £90 by the police, with a discussion on its licence taking place at a Greenwich Council meeting on October 31. Leo Charalambides, a barrister speaking on behalf of the owner, said Mr Punniyamoorthy had been running the shop with his wife since 2012.
Mr Charalambides said that the shop already had a number of procedures in place to ensure its smooth running, including a CCTV system and record of refusals. However, he felt several of the council officers’ suggested conditions, such as limiting the space in which alcohol can be displayed, were “entirely disproportionate”.
He said at the meeting: “Why are you not controlling sweets, sugar content, balanced diet, lottery tickets? What’s next, that your trading standards are going to go in and run the shop? This is micromanaging, this is not a proportionate response.”
Council officers claimed in their report that rates of antisocial behaviour and violence related offences were higher in the area surrounding the shop. They added that reducing the hours in which alcohol could be sold at the shop could help prevent children attempting to buy booze before school.
He added: “It just seems very odd to me. The idea that the school children of Greenwich will stop off at their local convenience stores, put their bottles of beers and booze in their rucksack, carry it to school all day. It just doesn’t make any sense and there’s no evidence for it.”
Labour Councillor Ann-Marie Cousins said at the meeting that businesses in the borough had a responsibility to prevent crime and disorder. She also said that Mr Charamlambides appeared to have agreed with the majority of suggestions from council officers, and that only a few tweaks were necessary for the business to continue running.
Cllr Cousins said: “We have a responsibility to do prevention, and from what you are saying we would have to wait for half the street to be rolling down the road drunk before we could do anything.”
The licensing sub committee said in its decision last week that a series of conditions would be added to the licence for the shop. These included beers and ciders above 6.5per cent not being sold at the shop, maintaining a register of employees and limiting the sales area for alcohol in the store.
(Local Democracy Reporting Service)