Magistrates’ decision to spare a Spalding trader an immediate jail term for selling illegal cigarettes has been slammed as “absolutely disgusting” by Spalding Today readers.
The cigarettes were found during a joint operation by police and trading standards officers in December 2015 when 2,240 contraband items were found inside the shop.
Mahmood denied all charges but after being found guilty at trial, he was given a three-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, at Lincoln Magistrates Court on Friday, November 11. Magistrates also ordered Mahmood to carry out 240 hours’ unpaid work within the next 12 months and to pay costs totalling £2,080.
But the sentence was attacked by Julie Grant, whose mother June Buffham (71) died in a fire at her home in Stonegate, Spalding, in April 2012 when an armchair she was sitting in was set alight by an illegal cigarette she was thought to have dropped.
Julie, of Swineshead and a campaigner against illegal cigarette sales, said: “In my opinion, the sentence (against Mahmood) isn’t harsh enough and it shouldn’t have been suspended.
“It’s about time the courts did more and as for 240 hours of unpaid work over a year, which equates to 20 hours a month, this will be no hardship for Mahmood unless he has to close his business during those hours.
“This would result in a loss of revenue but it is an unlikely scenario as, no doubt, he will have staff to cover his time (on unpaid work).
“Smokers need to realise the dangers of purchasing these ‘cheap’ cigarettes because whilst they may be saving themselves money, they are seriously endangering their health even more than when they buy regular cigarettes.
“Illicit cigarettes aren’t regulated, they have been proven to contain absolute rubbish and are a genuine fire risk as they do not self-extinguish when dropped.”
Julie’s views were supported by Free Press readers commenting on our Spalding Today website and Facebook page, including
Illicit cigarettes aren’t regulated, they have been proven to contain absolute rubbish and are a genuine fire risk as they do not self-extinguish when droppedJulie Grant, of Swineshead, a campaigner against illegal cigarette sales
Jackie Taylor who said: “Absolutely disgusting - (Mahmood) should have gone to jail for breaking the law so many times.
“Shut the shop down and never give him another (premises) licence.”
Darren Pickering said: “Why don’t the courts send them to jail? I mean 13 charges and what lesson will he learn - NONE. Yes I agree that you can get products cheaper this way, but at what cost to your life or someone else’s?”
But Theresa Geeson said: “Our prisons are full to bursting and it’s the taxpayer footing the bill. We need to become more selective over which crimes require a jail sentence and which should incur heavy, enforced penalties. In my opinion, this case deserves a huge fine and loss of licence.”
Coun Anthony Casson, portfolio holder for licensing at South Holland District Council, said: “The sentence given (to Mahmood) clearly shows how serious the courts are taking the sale of illegal tobacco products.
“The panel of the licensing committee revoked the alcohol licence from this shop earlier this year due to concerns of illegal activity on the premises and this court case shows that the council took the right course of action.
“The licensing framework is there to protect the public from crime and reports of criminal activity taking place in licensed premises will be dealt with seriously.”
Meanwhile, another Spalding off-licence has lost its right to sell alcohol after evidence was found that staff were smuggling in illegal cigarettes.
Super Sam in Commercial Road had its premises licence revoked by South Holland District Council on Thursday after CCTV showed traders selling “non-duty paid cigarettes to customers down aisles”.