Shop owner fails in bid to re-open shop after being convicted of selling illegal tobacco and cigarettes

A business owner convicted of selling illegal tobacco and cigarettes has lost his bid to have a shop closure order lifted.

Judge rules the store should remain closed.
Judge rules the store should remain closed.

Balraj Sing Takhar was fined for selling illegal tobacco products in April.

In October, Durham County Council Trading Standards officers seized tobacco and cigarettes valued at more than £3,250 from Takhar's Lifestyle Express convenience store in Middle Street, Blackhall Colliery.

That seizure lead magistrates to order the shop to shut for three months from November 18.

Takhar, 49, of Keating Close, Blackhall Colliery, appealed against the closure order.

The appeal was heard at Durham Crown Court by Judge Christopher Prince, sitting with two magistrates.

Annelise Haugstad, for Takhar, said the closure had caused hardship to him and his family.

"Mr Takhar has been in the convenience store business for 17 years," said Ms Haugstad. "Prior to that he worked as a clerk at the Post Office.

"He is a married man with three children, and the family rely on the shop for their living.

"While it is shut, he is still having to pay standing costs of more than £450 a month.

"Convenience stores of this nature rely on this time of year for a boost in trade because other shop may not be so readily available.

"There are three other convenience stores in the area, and Mr Takhar is concerned the longer he is shut, the less likely it is his regular customer base will return."

Ms Haugstad said three months was the maximum time the shop could be shut under the legislation.

"In our submission closing it for the maximum time is excessive and disproportionate," she added.

Alice Richardson, for Durham County Council, said the magistrates had heard all the evidence in the case and had concluded three months was appropriate.

"This is not like a criminal sentence," added Ms Richardson. "A closure is necessary to prevent the nuisance the shop owner admitted causing.

"Inquiries into the most recent seizure of tobacco are continuing.

"Mr Takhar has a previous conviction for this type of offending in April.

"It is he who has put his business at risk, not the local authority."

Judge Prince dismissed the appeal.

"Mr Takhar was fined for selling illegal cigarettes in April," said the judge.

"He does not accept he was doing so on this occasion, although he does accept the shop was causing a nuisance.

"We think a closure is entirely appropriate in this case, and we think the length of the order is also appropriate."

Takhar was ordered to pay £1,700 costs within eight weeks.