A County Durham shop owner has been forced to pay £1,000 after thousands of counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco bundles were found in her store.

Jennifer Spensley, of Cheesmond Avenue, Bishop Auckland, was investigated by Durham County Council’s Trading Standards team after officers inspected News and Homeware Convenience Store in St Helen Auckland, which is owned by Spensley.

During a raid of the premises, behind the counter and in the shop’s storeroom, investigators found a number of what appeared to be Kent, Richmond, JPS, and Lambert & Butler cigarettes, and Turner tobacco.

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All the products lacked the correct packaging and health warnings and, following a trademark inspection, the Richmond, JPS and Lambert & Butler cigarettes were found to be counterfeit.

Officers found 6,260 illicit cigarettes and 350 grams of illicit hand-rolling tobacco.

Trading Standards officers also noticed the shop was not displaying the legislated tobacco warning notice, which declares: ‘It is an offence to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18.’

During an interview, Spensley, 35, admitted selling the illicit products and confirmed she had purchased them knowing they were illegal.

The Northern Echo: Illicit cigarettes and tobacco seized from the shop. Picture: DURHAM COUNTY COUNCILIllicit cigarettes and tobacco seized from the shop. Picture: DURHAM COUNTY COUNCIL

She appeared at Peterlee Magistrates Court and pleaded guilty to selling illicit cigarettes and tobacco from her shop premises.

Spensley was also ordered to pay a fine of £200, a victim surcharge of £34 and £850 costs - totalling £1,084.

Following the court appearance, Owen Cleugh, Durham County Council’s public protection manager, said: “Selling illegal tobacco affects communities on many levels.

“All tobacco is harmful as it can compromise the health of the public and should be sold with the required warnings.

“Cheap and illegal tobacco makes it easier for children to get hold of the products and can undermine efforts of stop smoking services.

“This case is an example of how our Trading Standards team is committed to dealing with illicit tobacco at all levels of the supply chain, and that we will take action against those who are found to be trading illegally.”

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