Indian restaurant caught employing illegal workers allowed to stay open after owner promises to make changes

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An Indian restaurant has been allowed to stay open after a raid discovered illegal workers.

Councillors in Durham decided this week against shutting down Cookson Spice, in Cookson Terrace, Chester-le-Street.

But they insisted manager Jaman Ahmed adopt a beefed-up regime to make sure staff have proper documentation and that this could be made available as quickly as possible to police and other officials.

Speaking at the meeting of Durham County Council’s Statutory Licensing Sub-Committee, immigration enforcement officer Mark Thorley told the panel about the visit on November 18 last year.

He said: “Four males in employment at the business were arrested on immigration offences – this was not the first visit immigration enforcement had made to the premises.

He added: “No proper checks were carried out on persons in his [Mr Ahmed’s] employ, particularly in regard to immigration status.”

This led to the Home Office fining Mr Ahmed, but he in turn employed a specialist licensing consultant to help him comply with the rules.

Matthew Foster, Mr Ahmed’s lawyer, said new measures had been deemed ‘sufficient’ by enforcement agencies and added his client would likely face financial struggle for the next three years while he pays off his fine.

The committee agreed to allow Mr Ahmed to continue trading.

Summing up the decision, committee chairman Coun Colin Carr said: “We’re prepared to accept the conditions as offered and agreed by the Home Office.

“Every member of staff must be clearly identified and verifiable and records are to be produced to any appropriate officers that request them.”

James Harrison

James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service