A man was collared selling dodgy tabs after he sold illicit cigarettes and tobacco to an undercover trading standards officer who called to his home.
John Hall, 68, was selling cigarettes and tobacco from his home in Easington Colliery, some with warnings on in French and German and others which wrongly claimed to be named brands.
He was caught out after selling to a Durham County Council officer who called at the property and has now been successfully prosecuted.
Magistrates heard how, acting on information, the official called at Hall’s home last November without disclosing his employment.
From the conversation the officer was able to confirm that Hall, of Camp Street, was selling cigarettes and tobacco from the property.
The court heard the officer attempted a test purchase, with Hall fetching a 20 pack of ‘Richmond’ King Size cigarettes from his living room and selling them to him for £4. He also supplied the official with a 50g pack of Turner tobacco.
Magistrates in Newton Aycliffe were told the cigarettes were subsequently found to be counterfeit in that they were likely to be mistaken for Richmond products.
The tobacco did not display the required health warnings in that, although it featured the required photograph, the only written health warnings on it were in French and German.
A week later, officers raided Hall’s home and seized 48 packets of Richmond King Size cigarettes, which again proved to be counterfeit.
He was interviewed the following month and accepted buying illicit tobacco which he said he sold to his family and his son’s friends. Hall said he could not remember selling to the officer.
He was charged with three offences – two under trades mark law and one contrary to tobacco and related products regulations.
Hall accepted in court that he had sold cigarettes to the undercover officer.
In mitigation, magistrates heard the amount of cigarettes involved was small and that Hall had not made a material profit.
He was fined £200 and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £30 and costs of £200. The court also ordered the cigarettes and tobacco be destroyed.
Joanne Waller, the council’s head of environment, health and consumer protection, said: “The cigarettes and tobacco in this case were harmful to the health of anyone smoking them, while some also did not display the required warnings and others misled buyers into thinking they were getting a well-known brand.
“We will use all powers available to us to stop the supply of illegal tobacco in our county including the use of undercover officers, as this case proves.
“I hope it sends out a warning to anyone involved in this criminal activity that they will be taken to court and made to pay for their actions.”
Anyone who believes they have information on the sale of illegal tobacco is asked to report it confidentially on 0300 999 0000 or via www.keep-it-out.co.uk
Anyone wishing to give up smoking can seek free help by calling Smokefreelife, County Durham, on 0191 369 2016 or 0800 772 0565.