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Business, Community Safety

Shopkeepers warned against selling fireworks and alcohol to teenagers

Lambeth Council is urging shopkeepers to behave responsibly during Halloween and Bonfire Night after a high street store had its licence revoked for selling fireworks and alcohol to customers under the age of 18.

The warning comes after Lambeth Trading Standards caught staff at Costcutter in Clapham High Street selling large rocket fireworks and cans of lager to teenage girls aged between 15 and 16 on three separate occasions. The council’s licensing committee took tough action and revoked the shop’s alcohol licence last week for triggering Trading Standard’s strict ‘three strikes and you’re out’ licensing policy.

The Committee heard the under-age sales were made by Costcutter staff to the young people sent by Trading Standards and Police as part of a joint test purchasing operation. The first occasion, in November last year, saw a 16-year-old girl sold fireworks despite the shop failing to hold a licence to sell them. Officers later found more fireworks stored illegally. In two follow-up operations at the same shop a 15-year-old girl was sold two cans of lager in April, and another 16 year-old girl sold lager in May.

Costcutter Designated Premises Supervisor, Kapil Arora, and Manager, Amir Khan, told the committee the purchases were ‘mistakes’ and ‘flukes’ and that the problems were ‘all behind them’. However it was concluded that the matters were too serious not to revoke the shop’s licence. Trading Standards Officers also found one of the Costcutter employees who served the girls to be an illegal immigrant, and another to have overstayed his tourist visa by three-a-half years. A third illegal immigrant was found living above the shop. Trading Standards had tried to support Costcutter by supplying a Licensed Premises Information Pack which contains comprehensive information, advice, contacts, plus signage and guidance on selling alcohol.

Cllr Lorna Campbell, Lambeth Council Cabinet Member for Environment and  Sustainability, said: “With Bonfire Night and Halloween fast approaching it is vital that we send out a strong message to shopkeepers to behave responsibly or face the consequences. There is simply no excuse for shopkeepers or their staff who sell fireworks, alcohol, cigarettes or other age restricted goods such as knives to people who are underage. Shopkeepers must ask for appropriate ID if there is any doubt whatsoever that the person is underage.”

It is against the law for anyone under the age of 18 to buy or possess fireworks in a public place. Lambeth Council’s trading standards team and London Fire Brigade will be carrying out spot checks on premises that sell fireworks in the borough throughout Halloween and Bonfire Night. Young people are helping the team to carry out test purchases and check whether shopkeepers are selling fireworks to under 18s. If caught, businesses can face prosecution and a fine. Trading Standards will also advise businesses about how to correctly store fireworks in their premises and carry out checks to make sure there are no illegal goods such as bangers and mini-rockets.

To report illegal sales or the illegal sale of fireworks to under-18s contact Lambeth Trading Standards on 020 7926 6102. To report incidents of anti-social behaviour contact Lambeth Council’s anti-social behaviour reporting line on 020 7926 4000.

Other useful numbers to note during Halloween and Fireworks Night include: Lambeth Police emergencies 999. Lambeth Police non-emergencies 0300 123 1212. Remember in emergencies always call 999. Housing association tenants should report anti-social behaviour to their landlords.

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