Sales ban for Bognor shop caught with illegal cigarettes

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A BOGNOR convenience store caught with illegal goods has been banned from selling alcohol for a month.

Trading Standards applied for a licence review of 16 Queensway after officers found more than 100 packets of illegal tobacco concealed in the storeroom, along with £10,000 cash, in December.

The application, supported by Sussex Police and Arun District Council, was heard by the council’s licensing sub-committee today (Friday, March 16).

Richard Sargeant, Trading Standards operations team manager, said: “This is a serious matter. The safety risk is significant in the fact they don’t self-extinguish, so when you light these cigarettes they keep burning and burning. They have in the past contributed to house fires.”

Trading Standards visited the premises in May and December.

No illegal goods were found in May, but an employee was captured on CCTV fleeing the shop with a cardboard box.

Officers believed it may have contained illegal cigarettes but could not prove their suspicions.

But a further visit in December saw the cigarettes and cash discovered – though the cash was later returned as was not proven to be connected to the illicit goods.

In an unexpected twist, current licence holder, Daniel Sulimierski, shocked officers by fleeing the store as they seized the goods.

Mr Sargeant said he had ‘grave concerns’ that Mr Sulimierski had not met the standard expected of a responsible licence holder.

Sarah Meeten, Arun licensing manager, said Mr Sulimierski had attended a training session in October, where clear warnings were given about the dangers of illicit tobacco.

Mr Sulimierski apologised to the committee for the incident but explained staff had now been trained and a new designated premises supervisor had been appointed.

He said: “I lost control of the shop for a bit because the company was growing and I was busy opening another shop but after what has happened I have made a lot of changes to make sure that it will never happen again.”

After a short adjournment, the committee, chaired by councillor Trevor Bence, decided against a permanent revocation.

However, Mr Bence said the one-month suspension should act as a ‘warning’.

Referring to the illegal cigarettes, he said: “The sub-committee is extremely concerned about these, accepting that they present a risk to public health and the undermining of the crime and disorder licensing objectives.

“However the quantity is not so large as to prove anything other than possible personal use, potentially by staff members.”

The licence revocation prevents the shop selling alcohol. Sale of tobacco is not a licensable activity.

The review was pursued because the authorities had ‘no confidence’ in the licence holder promoting the objectives of the Licensing Act.