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    Store found with weapons and drugs punished by council

    Best One store, Bridge Street, Heywood. (Photo: Google Maps via LDRS)

    By: George Lythgoe, Local Democracy Reporter

    An off-licence where police found a knife, a metal baseball bat and nitrous oxide canisters has been forced to change its manager.

    Best One in Heywood, Rochdale, was raided by police and Trading Standards following intelligence about the alleged selling of drugs; handling of stolen goods; and sale of vapes to children, town hall documents state.

    Licensing papers reveal they found a knife, a metal baseball bat; criminal identifier gel spray; and nitrous oxide, during the raid on the Bridge Street premises, in March.

    The licensing sub-committee met on 7 May to review the licence and decide whether they would alter the conditions for the off-licence.

    The meeting was told that Greater Manchester Police arrested the designated premises supervisor (DPS), Raja Ali, for possession of an offensive weapon; possession of a bladed article; possession of  nitrous oxide for wrongful inhalation; and possession of a weapon for the discharge of a noxious liquid.

    Mr Ali has been interviewed and is currently released on bail. Following this incident, GMP asked Rochdale Council to review the premises licence.

    Licensing papers read: “The review is being sought on the grounds that during a joint inspection involving GMP and the Council’s Trading Standards Team, officers had discovered at the premises an offensive weapon, a bladed article, Nitrous Oxide for wrongful inhalation and a weapon for the discharge of a noxious liquid, contrary to the promotion of the licensing objectives.”

    A police officer present at the hearing, at Number One Riverside, in Rochdale, explained the findings within the shop, then detailed that four single beds were found on the floor above, squeezed into one room. The officer went on to say that a gaming room was found on the third floor.

    Speaking in his defence at the meeting, Mr Ali told the committee that the baseball bat and the knife were in the shop when he first took charge of it in June 2022. He explained that he did not know that he should inform the police and did not want to take the knife from the shop out of fear of being caught with it and arrested.

    Mr Ali said the gel spray was bought as a self defence mechanism after being victim to assaults in the shop last summer. He added that the baseball bat is regularly used by his children for playing ball games, and not for self-defence.

    Mr Ali denied selling drugs, nitrous oxide canisters, to children and explained that they sold it to ice cream vans only. He then went on to say they will not sell it at all now they know it is a Class C drug.

    In regard to the beds upstairs and the gaming room on the second floor, Mr Ali explained that this was used for family entertainment and not available for public use. Only the bottom floor is the licensed premises.

    The sub-committee made the decision not to remove the premises licence as recommended by GMP, but to remove Mr Ali as DPS. The committee also reduced the hours of operation from between 4.40am and 11pm to between 8am and 10pm, Monday to Sunday and included a number of improved security and safety additions to the licence proposed by GMP.

    After making the decision, chair of the committee Cllr Phil Burke said: “We are very frustrated with GMP that the officer involved is not present at the meeting given the circumstances and allegations. Should cases like this be made again we would want the officer who put forward the case be present.

    “We are dealing with people’s livelihoods here.”

    The officer present at the meeting could not answer questions surrounding the investigation as she was not personally involved and had not been briefed on the particulars, only given the report submitted by GMP.


    (Local Democracy Reporting Service)

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