The Council’s Trading Standards team took legal action against Jennifer Spenley, of Cheesmond Avenue, Bishop Auckland, after officers inspected News and Homeware Convenience Store

Behind the counter and in the shop’s store room, investigators found a number of what appeared to be four brands of cigarettes, and a brand of tobacco.

All of the products lacked the standardised packaging and health warnings and, following a trademark inspection, the cigarettes were found to be cunning counterfeits, which are mainly of Chinese origin.

In total, officers found 6,260 illicit cigarettes and 350 grams of illicit hand rolling tobacco, with a street value of over £2,000.

Trading Standards officers also noticed the shop was not displaying the legislated tobacco warning notice, which declares: ‘It is an offence to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18.’

During an interview, Spensley, 35, admitted selling the illicit products and confirmed she had purchased them knowing they were illegal.

She appeared at Peterlee Magistrates Court and pleaded guilty to selling illicit cigarettes and tobacco from her shop premises.

She was ordered to pay a fine of £200, a victim surcharge of £34 and £850 costs – totalling a mere £1,084, around half the sales value of the seized items.

Owen Cleugh, Durham County Council’s public protection manager, said: “Selling illegal tobacco affects communities on many levels. All tobacco is harmful as it can compromise the health of the public and should be sold with the required warnings. Cheap and illegal tobacco makes it easier for children to get hold of the products and can undermine efforts of stop smoking services.

“This case is an example of how our Trading Standards team is committed to dealing with illicit tobacco at all levels of the supply chain, and that we will take action against those who are found to be trading illegally.”

Jennifer has owned up to her crime and paid the small fine, so that’s alright, but the fine was clearly not a deterrent in the first place. Could it be time to bring back medieval stocks in the town square?

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