Illegal tobacco busts sees Halifax shop's licence revoked

Zabka store in Halifax (Google Street View)
Zabka store in Halifax (Google Street View)

A convenience store has had its premises licence – allowing it to sell alcohol – revoked after a string of illegal tobacco busts.

Calderdale Council’s Licensing Sub-Committee made the decision after West Yorkshire Police had made a request the licence for Zabka’s (Polskie Specjaly) store at 246 King Cross Road, Halifax, be reviewed.

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They heard that following three visits to the premises by the Fraud and Investigation Service, HM Revenue and Customs and Trading Standards quantities of illegal tobacco products were found concealed at the premises on each occasion.

West Yorkshire Police argued they had grounds for review in respect of all four of the licensing objectives set by Government – the prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, the prevention of public nuisance and the protection of children from harm.

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Briefing papers to councillors also included emails from members of the public complaining alcohol had been sold to a “huge number of unsavoury characters who are constantly loitering the streets and park, begging for money”, according to one, which also claimed the people referred to were never around before the store opened.

Police and trading standards evidence about the raids, in October 2017, January 2018 and July 2018, detailed illegal cigarettes and tobacco hidden in a number of concealed hiding places including a shop counter, a lockable green bin in the back yard, an oven in the rear store room which was discovered by a detection dog, and a ceiling light.

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In the January raid 10,300 mixed brand non-UK duty paid cigarettes and 2.75 kilos of tobacco were seized.

Speaking on behalf of the store’s designated premises supervisor Sarkaw Azizi and current licence holder Cortney James Anthony Wilmoth, Mr John Cordingley argued that although there had been problems in the recent past there was a clean break with two new brooms in charge of the premises, Mr Wilmoth having taken over from previous licence holder Jake Brown in September.

He did not challenge the findings but “a new regime is there,” he said.

Mr Azizi and Mr Wilmoth were both family men with experience in running a shop who knew what the responsibilities of holding a licence were and would enforce them.

Councillors and the police asked Mr Azizi and Mr Wilmoth a number of questions about the set up, but were concerned no-one could establish who the leaseholder for the premises was.

Committee chairman Coun Robert Thornber (Con, Ryburn) said councillors felt all four licensing objectives had been breached and revoked the premises licence.

He reminded all present there was a right of appeal against the decision for all parties and this must be made to the magistrates’ court within 21 days of being notified of the licensing authorities’ decision.

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