Human rights laws prevent Derby City Council shaming counterfeiters
A CAMPAIGN to name and shame shops caught selling illicit alcohol and tobacco is being foiled by "frustrating" human rights laws, according to a local councillor.
Derby City Council wanted to publicise those places found to be selling the counterfeit goods which avoid taxes and can be harmful to health.
Trading standards officers visited 22 shops in Derby last month in their latest crackdown on suspected offenders. More than half of those stores were found to be selling counterfeit booze, cigarettes and tobacco.
Councillor Hardyal Dhindsa, cabinet member responsible for trading standards, said the shops would not be prosecuted on this occasion because he wanted to work with them to "get their houses in order".
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But as part of the incentive to do that, he wanted to publicly name the stores who had been caught red-handed.
He said: "It's frustrating that we cannot go ahead with this because we cannot fall foul of any laws.
"My approach was that we wanted to try to bring businesses on board with us to change their lifestyle and behaviour so we have a better city.
"It was a new approach and that was the main reason for doing it and not prosecuting."
Mr Dhindsa said he was told by the council's legal advisers that naming the shops when there was no legal action in process would be a breach of human rights laws.
During the authority's week of action, trading standards officers seized more than £2,500-worth of suspect cigarettes, tobacco and bottles of alcohol.
Of the 22 businesses visited, 11 were found to have illicit products on their premises.
The week of action followed the recent destruction of more than 110,000 cigarettes and over 100kg of tobacco seized by Derby Trading Standards in recent years.
Analysis showed that some alcohol samples contained seven times the permitted levels of cadmium, which is known to damage the kidneys, and six times the permitted levels of lead, which is known to harm the nervous and reproductive systems.
It also follows the discovery of illicit Drop vodka by Trading Standards in the city last year which was found to contain isopropyl alcohol, normally used as a cleaning fluid.
Mr Dhindsa said: "There are two major issues, the first being the significant health risks of these illicit goods, and the other is an estimated £2 billion being lost in legitimate tax revenue at a time when we can least afford it.
"The money is instead lining the pockets of organised criminal gangs rather than funding public services and the NHS.
"I want the public to realise how serious this situation is and why we are working hard to tackle it.
"This not a victimless crime and in most cases it's likely that you'll be buying counterfeit or illicit products that can serious damage your health. Ultimately, the public are left picking up the bill for the impact of that along with directly funding organised criminal gangs."
Douglas Walkman, team leader for trading standards said tackling the illicit trade was a high priority. He said: "We are not surprised by our findings on the week of action and will look to continue disrupting the trade in illicit alcohol and tobacco.
"In Derby alone, we know that the sale of counterfeit alcohol and tobacco is widespread. I'm asking the public to work in partnership with the trading standards team by contacting crime stoppers or the council directly."
People with information about who is selling illicit products can call the team in confidence on Derby 641333.