Following a long investigation by Halton Council Trading Standards, a Widnes shop has been issued with a closure order.

Over three and a half years, traders at Newsrack on Albert Road were visited nine times during the period, resulting in three seizures of illegal tobacco and non-compliant vapes, worth thousands of pounds.

Despite the numerous visits, the seizures, and four warnings issued to the occupants of the premises, the traders continued to sell counterfeit tobacco and illicit vapes, including two test purchases to children under 16.

As a result of the continued use of the premises to cause nuisance, and to facilitate criminal activity, Halton Borough Council’s Trading Standards Service successfully obtained a Closure Order against the premises, at Warrington Combined Courts.  The application was made under The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, and effectively it means the premises will now remain closed until 14 August 2024.

During the most recent visit in April 2024, Trading Standards officers seized more than £10,000 of counterfeit tobacco and vapes.  During this visit the officers, assisted by ‘Billy’ a Wagtail tobacco seizure dog, uncovered two concealment units hidden behind a mirror and a staircase.

A Council spokesperson for Trading Standards says: “The Council has a duty to protect the health of our residents in Halton, and I’m pleased that the magistrates have supported the actions of the Council and, in doing so, agreed to impose the Closure Order to prevent the business from continuing to trade.

“It’s so important that we continue to investigate and prosecute those involved in the supply of counterfeit/illicit tobacco and non-compliant vapes. The sale of counterfeit/illicit tobacco is a real concern, and more so when our children are at risk of harm. Closing a business is not a decision we take lightly, but when businesses continue to flout the law, despite being given adequate warnings, then this approach becomes necessary. I hope this sends out a strong and clear message, that we will not tolerate this criminal activity and there is no hiding place.

“The traders operating from the premises had no respect for the law, or the harm they were doing, with a disregard to the health of the children they sold to, and now they will pay the consequences of their illegal actions. 

“This legislation is a vital tool in our armoury when up against unscrupulous hardened traders, when our normal enforcement actions go unheeded.  We would urge members of the public to continue reporting such activity so that we can take the necessary action.”

Halton Trading Standards will continue to pro-actively target traders whether they sell via the High Street, or online social media accounts such as Facebook, with a clear warning that sellers will face criminal enforcement action when they are caught and they risk having their computers, mobile phones and even their vehicles seized.

Furthermore, sellers should consider the impact a criminal conviction will have on their private lives – their employment prospects, their ability to get holiday visas and their reputation with their neighbours and their community.

If you have any information involving the sale of counterfeit goods then you can report it, anonymously if you wish, via the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133. 

If you have any information specifically relating to the sale of illicit cigarettes or alcohol then you can ring the Halton Trading Standards Hotline for Alcohol and Tobacco on  0151 511 8787.   This is a reporting voicemail facility only and any information provided can be left anonymously, however, please provide enough information to identify those involved and if you want feedback your contact details too.  Remember all other trading standards matters can be reported in the usual manner by contacting 0808 223 1133, as above.