A BUSINESS owner who sold an electronic cigarette to a 12-year-old child has been ordered to pay out more than £600.

James Anthony Beeston was snared by Durham County Council (DCC) during an undercover investigation sparked by the initial sale of the vape pen and refill fluid to the youngster.

The authority’s Trading Standards department sent a young volunteer into the The Vapour Shop, on Front Street, Chester-le-Street, where the 33-year-old failed to ask for proof of age.

Magistrates in Newton Aycliffe on Wednesday (August 2) heard the businessman was first warned about checking the age of customers on December 1 last year.

Gill Proud, prosecuting on behalf of DCC, said a PCSO walked past the store and saw several children in school uniform inside - one of which was using an e-cigarette.

When challenged, Beeston claimed he had not been open for very long and the youngsters were just inside to get warm.

The court heard two weeks later the parents of a 12-year-old complained to the police that their son had been sold an electronic cigarette and refill fluid.

They told officers they had gone to the shop to confront the owner but the court was told he “became threatening”.

On February 10 trading standards sent a young test purchaser into the shop to buy an e-cigarette.

Ms Proud said the volunteer asked for a cheap vape pen and the business owner produced the e-cigarette and asked if the youngster had used one before.

The youngster replied no, but told him his friends had.

Beeston set up the Vape Pen 22 and sold it, along with a refill fluid containing nicotine, for £30. Ms Proud added: “It’s concerning no proof of age was asked for.”

Magistrates heard Beeston, of Gilpin Court, Newton Aycliffe, told the trading standards officer he had asked how old the customer was, and that they stated they were 18.

Four days later Beeston was sent a letter inviting him to attend an interview with DCC but did not reply.

The court case comes just one day after anti-smoking campaigners raised concerns about children using cigarettes.

Fresh North-East issued a warning against the dangers of smoking after primary school children were spotted puffing on cigarettes in Darlington. In a video seen by The Northern Echo, three girls, believed to be aged around nine or ten-years-old, can be seen with a cigarette.

Fresh North-East said while around 26 per cent of teenagers aged 11-15 have smoked in the North-East, the proportion who are regular smokers is much smaller - around six per cent.

Beeston, who did not attend the hearing, pleaded guilty by letter to one count of selling a nicotine inhaling product to a person under 18.

The defendant was fined £200 and was ordered to pay investigation costs of £159, prosecution costs of £250 and a £30 victim surcharge. He has 28 days to pay the £639.