A married Shildon couple in their 60’s who sold illegal tobacco products from their home have been ordered to handover more than £1,000.
Trading Standards officers from Durham County Council seized 200 Richmond King Size cigarettes, 160 Jim’s cigarettes and 850g of Turner Hand Rolling Tobacco from Janice and Barry Wheatley’s home in the town’s Albert Street.
It followed a tip off to Trading Standards through the Keep it Out campaign, which encourages the public to report their suspicions relating to the illegal sale of tobacco, as well as urging smokers not to buy it.
In March last year, a test purchase operation was carried out at the property and a woman, now known to be Mrs Wheatley, sold an officer a packet of Royals cigarettes for £3.80.
Both Mr and Mrs Wheatley were present when the entry warrant was executed later that month, on March 27.
The Richmond cigarettes were examined by a brand protection representative and deemed to be counterfeit. None of the products seized that day contained the required health warnings.
At Newton Aycliffe Magistrates Court, Mrs Wheatley, 64, pleaded guilty to one charge of possessing for sale counterfeit cigarettes, one charge of supplying tobacco products without combined health warnings on the front and back of the packet, and three further charges of possessing for supply tobacco products without the required health warnings.
Mr Wheatley,63, pleaded guilty to possessing for sale counterfeit cigarettes and three charges of possessing for supply tobacco products without the required health warnings.
Magistrates heard that during interview the couple said they made very little profit from the illegal venture as they mainly sold to friends and family at cost price.
They said they had been selling tobacco since November 2017, following a chance encounter with an unknown male in a layby near Rushyford. The couple claimed to have bought tobacco from this man on three occasions but had no contact details for him.
In mitigation, the court heard the couple had only sold products to a few people they did not know, and stopped selling tobacco immediately after the warrant was executed.
Mrs Wheatley was fined £120 and was ordered to pay a £30 victim surcharge and costs of £219.
Mr Wheatley was fined £400 and was ordered to pay a £40 victim surcharge and costs of £219.
Owen Cleugh, consumer protection manager at Durham County Council, said: “We are committed to cracking down on illegal tobacco in County Durham and this prosecution demonstrates how seriously the court takes offences like these.
“Illegal cigarettes not only bring crime into our communities but they make it easier for children to start smoking and seriously undermines the work of the stop smoking service.”
Anyone with information on the sale of illegal tobacco should contact the confidential reporting line on 0300 999 0000 or via www.keep-it-out.co.uk/