This is the first use of ‘emergency closure’ powers in Herefordshire and West Mercia
A three month emergency closure notice has been granted against Zabka (Eign Gate Hereford) today (Wednesday 10 October) due to the persistent sale and distribution of illegal tobacco at the store.
Hereford Magistrates’ Court granted the emergency closure, following a 48 hour closure notice issued to Zabka on Monday 8 October under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.
This is the first time in Herefordshire that an emergency closure notice has been used on premises that persistently sell illegal tobacco, despite previous court action and convictions. Only a handful of police forces and local authorities have used this new power, which was considered appropriate and proportionate because of the persistent disregard to the regulatory action previously taken. Breaching a closure order is a criminal offence, and anyone that attempts to access the address could be arrested.
The emergency closure notice follows a Multi Agency Targeted Enforcement Strategy (MATES) operation on Zabka and International Foods (Commercial Road Hereford) last Wednesday 3 October. Officers from Herefordshire Council’s Trading Standards and Environmental Health service, West Mercia Police and Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service seized 481 packets of illegal cigarettes and 15 pouches of illegal hand rolling tobacco from Zabka. 12,500 cigarettes and 9kg of hand rolling tobacco were seized from International Foods, and a significant amount of out of date food was also removed from the shelves of the store.
A further application to issue a 3 month closure notice against International Foods was postponed in court today due to time and will be heard at Hereford Magistrates’ Court on Monday 15 October.
Marc Willimont, Herefordshire Council’s Head of Regulatory & Development Management Services, said:
“The use of emergency closure powers proves that the council and our partner agencies are standing up to persistent offenders in an effort to clamp down on exploitation and the sale of illegal tobacco, which is often linked to organised crime and other criminal activity. The closure order is yet another successful outcome supported by multi-agency targeted enforcement which clearly shows the value of working in partnership with other agencies.”
Sergeant Duncan Reynolds from West Mercia Police said:
“As part of our ongoing Protect campaign, we're encouraging members of the public to work with us to recognise the signs of serious and organised crime, such as the sale of illegal tobacco, and report them to us so that we can investigate thoroughly.
“The closure process has been the culmination of several months’ work involving evidence submitted by partner agencies including Herefordshire Council, Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service, HM Revenue and Customs and the Home Office, as well as local retailers and members of the public. The evidence of criminality and public nuisance has justified the use of emergency closure powers as a way to significantly disrupt this illicit activity. This tactic will now be pursued against similar businesses involved in this type of criminality across the county. The closure powers we’ve been able to use in this case emphasise how serious these offences are, and we will continue to work with our partners to ensure that organised criminals are unable to continue operating in Herefordshire."
There is further information about Herefordshire Trading Standards on the Herefordshire Council website at www.herefordshire.gov.uk/trading-standards