A MAN described by his solicitor as "at the bottom of the food chain" has been ordered to pay out almost £1,500 after being caught flogging fake cigarettes.

Patrick Sludds, 62, was captured on CCTV cameras selling the counterfeit goods from his car and in various locations around Darlington town centre.

When enforcement officers knocked on his door he was found to have 692 packs of Regal King Size Cigarettes, 629 packs of Mayfair King Size Cigarettes and 69 50g packs of Golden Virginia Hand Rolling Tobacco.

Appearing at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates' Court yesterday, the defendant pleaded guilty to three counts of possessing goods with a false trade mark for sale.

Amy Wennington, prosecuting on behalf of Darlington Borough Council, said the defendant was cautioned for supplying cigarettes from his Toyota in January 2015.

But the court heard Sludds, of Wheeldale Close, Darlington, ignored the warning and the council received similar complaints again in July 2016.

Reports were then backed up by CCTV footage.

When his home was searched on September 14 last year he was found to be in possession of the items which have since been confirmed by the respective companies to be fakes.

Magistrates heard in an interview he claimed he had got them from a Polish man whose name he did not know but had met in a lay-by at Rushyford.

He also claimed he made only a £2 profit on packs of cigarettes and about £1 on packs of tobacco.

But Ms Wennington said: "Trading standards said the profit margins were unlikely to be true given how slim they are and maybe he is down playing the matter."

The defendant, who started selling in about March, said he was "just being a fool, as simple as that".

Ben Pegman, mitigating, said he believed his client was remorseful and "very much at the bottom of the food chain" in relation to the hierarchy of the counterfeit goods market.

He added the former tyre fitter and his wife had been under financial pressure due to him being unemployed and her having to give up work through ill health.

Mr Pegman told the court the defendant had health problems including from an industrial accident which led to him losing one leg from the knee down.

Sludds was fined £520 for the three offences and was ordered to pay £880 towards prosecution costs and a £30 victim surcharge.