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Saturday, 01 November 2014

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School bus driver sold counterfeit cigarettes to friends

A SCHOOL bus driver who sold cigarettes illegally to his friends has been fined £240.

William Morris, 55, of Windermere Road, Woodhouse, admitted three offences relating to selling illegal tobacco products at West Cumbria Courthouse last week.

The court heard that the St Bees School bus driver bought cigarettes with counterfeit packaging to sell cheaply to his friends and family.

Trading Standards and police visited his home and seized 4,400 illegal cigarettes – 3,600 had already been sold on.

Presiding magistrate Sue Simpson told Morris: “Whilst this was a relatively small amount we still see this as a serious offence.”

Magistrates ordered him to pay £1,088 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

Tariq Khawam, on behalf of Trading Standards, said information was provided to them through Crimestoppers that the defendant had been selling cigarettes illegally.

A team of officers from Trading Standards, Cumbria Police, HM Revenue and Customs and the Trading Standards North West Illicit Tobacco Team visited Morris’s home in May, where they seized 3,600 Imperial Classic Red cigarettes and 800 Jin Ling cigarettes.

Mr Khawam said: “Morris co-operated fully with the officers and he allowed them to search the house.”

The court heard that Morris had bought £480 of cigarettes split into 40 packets. Each contained 200 cigarettes. He told officers he had sold 18 packets to friends and family for around £35 each.

Mr Khawam said subsequent examination revealed that both brands were not labelled in accordance with UK tobacco product legislation which provides important information on the content of the cigarettes and statutory health warnings.

Magistrates heard that the Imperial Classic Red cigarette packages were found to be unauthorised, counterfeit copies of the genuine brand.

Ryan Foley, for Morris, said: “My client had been approached by someone on the estate and he was given an offer which he couldn’t refuse. He purchased the cigarettes not knowing that they were counterfeit. The reason for purchasing them was to sell to friends and family.”

Mr Foley said his client had not recouped the money back from his friends and family.

He added: “He hadn’t realised that what he had done is a criminal offence. He feels that by his actions he has let the number of people down.”

Following last week’s hearing, Cumbria’s Trading Standards have warned others about the selling illegal tobacco products and say they take the offences very seriously.

Angela Jones, Trading Standards service manager said: “This case highlights the consequences of dealing in illicit tobacco products in our communities. The availability of illegal tobacco makes it easier for children and young people to smoke and helps fund organised crime. Trading Standards will continue to work with partners to deter and disrupt this trade and make Cumbria healthier and safer.”

Andy Stubbs, Illicit Tobacco Team Manager for Trading Standards North West said: “This prosecution sends a clear message that the courts take the sale of illegal tobacco products very seriously. We will continue to work with Trading Standards, the police and partner agencies to identify premises selling illegal tobacco products.”

Anyone with information regarding the supply of illicit tobacco products in Cumbria is encouraged to contact Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 08454 040506 or Crimestoppers, in confidence, on 0800 555111.

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