A shop which sold illegal vapes to minors and was also responsible for under-age alcohol sales has been shut down for three months.

Boro 24, in Linthorpe Road, Middlesbrough, was described as a “problematic” premises in a prosecution brought by Middlesbrough Council and being the location for “constant criminal behaviour of one sort or another”.

In one instance 282 so-called non-compliant “high puff” vapes were found at the shop, while drug-related paraphernalia was also present, including grinders and grip seal plastic bags.

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Meanwhile, a dead rat was found in a cupboard during one visit by council officers.

Teesside Magistrates Court heard that the premises had changed hands with the lease being taken on by businessman Surjeet Singh, who paid £15,000 cash for it.

But Mr Singh, who already runs a shop in Hillingdon, West London, was criticised by magistrates for not carrying out due diligence, or putting in place appropriate measures to ensure the business was compliant with the law.

The Northern Echo: Boro 24, in Linthorpe Road, MiddlesbroughBoro 24, in Linthorpe Road, Middlesbrough (Image: LDR)

The 40-year-old, originally from Afghanistan, said he had never been in trouble with any local authority, or convicted of any criminal offence, and would challenge under-age customers, having received training to do this.

He said he had been alerted to the availability of the business after the previous proprietor fell ill.

Catherine Cunningham, representing the local authority, said: “There is a considerable risk of criminality at the premises.”

She said the criminality conducted to date had been of a “significant pattern” and despite recently changing hands nothing had been received by the council to demonstrate how it would be run properly.

Mr Singh had opposed the council’s seeking of a closure order and was described by his legal representative as a “good, hardworking man”, who faced an uphill struggle to turn things around and who should be given the benefit of the doubt.

The court heard that a substantial file of evidence had been produced by the council setting out a history of criminal behaviour conducted from Boro 24 and this was accepted by all parties.

Mr Singh was declared by magistrates to be “credible and sincere”, based on the evidence he gave to the court, but had not engaged with the council – being urged to do so – and along with his lack of due diligence he was also said to have no business plan moving forward.

A three month closure order was made by the court “for the protection of the public” and while sympathy was expressed for Mr Singh, it was made clear it was he that had put himself into this position with a lack of adequate checks.

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Despite the closure order, Mr Singh would be allowed onto the premises between 10am and 4pm during the three month period – being required to alert council staff as to his presence – so that some form of restructuring of the business could take place and get it back on the right track.

He was told that the order could be reviewed, and possibly reduced in length, depending on what subsequent measures were taken.

In 2018 trading standards at Middlesbrough Council in a report described how Boro 24 was willing to sell cigarettes to children as young as eight – if they got permission from their parents.

Four packs of Stella Artois lager were sold to 15-year-olds sent into the shop in test purchases by the authorities, without ID checks being carried out.

Boro 24’s Facebook page advertises a number of products and describes delivering soft drinks and sweets “all over Teesside for free”.

Mr Singh was ordered to pay £2,178 in costs arising from the prosecution which he agreed to pay at the rate of £200 a month.