A MAN has been left counting the cost of selling illegal counterfeit cigarettes to trading standards officers on three separate occasions.

Richard Kelly also had more than 2,000 counterfeit cigarettes stashed in a footstool at his home in Sunnybrow, near Crook, when it was raided by Durham County Council.

Kelly, 62, of Huntsgarth, was prosecuted by the council on three charges under the Trades Mark Act 1994 and one of selling products which failed to meet legal requirements relating to display of health warnings.

On Wednesday, Newton Aycliffe Magistrates Court heard how between January and March council officers, acting on information, bought cigarettes labelled as the Pride and Richmond brands at Kelly’s home.

A search warrant was subsequently executed and 2,340 cigarettes, said to be Richmond, were discovered in a footstool in his living room.

They were all checked by an expert who confirmed them to be counterfeit 'Cheap Whites’ which have an increased risk of causing fires and did not display health warnings as required by law.

Kelly was interviewed and admitted all the offences, saying he had been making modest profit from the operation since Christmas 2017.

In court he pleaded guilty and said he used the profit to repay people he had borrowed money from. Magistrates imposed a fine of £210, costs of £600 and a victim surcharge of £30.

Joanne Waller, the council’s head of environment, health and consumer protection, said: “All tobacco is bad for people’s health but Cheap Whites have an added risk as tests have shown they can burn longer than normal cigarettes and do not self-extinguish, increasing the risk of them causing fires.

“Sales of illegal cigarettes help to fund criminal lifestyles and activity within communities and makes tobacco more accessible to young people increasing the risk of them getting hooked on smoking.

“As this case proves we will employ whatever means necessary to tackle the supply of illegal tobacco and we hope the financial penalty and criminal conviction will serve as a warning to anyone involved.”

Any residents of County Durham who have information or concerns about sales of illegal tobacco can report them anonymously to the Keep It Out Hotline on 0300-9990000 or online at keep-it-out.co.uk