Lark Lane venue shut down after ‘six year stretch of recurring failures’

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Liverpool City Council visited the premises in the popular neighbourhood to close it down.

A Lark Lane newsagents has been shut down for a period of three months after illegal cigarettes and vapes were sold to ‘vulnerable’ children.

Liverpool Council has secured a closure order for Britannia Stores in the south Liverpool hotspot after a ‘six year stretch of recurring failures’ including the sale of vapes and cigarettes to children as young as 13. Liverpool Magistrates Court was told how the business, owned by Dr Mohammed Jafar, also sold loose cigarettes and illegal vapes in a series of test purchases which all failed.

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The closure order comes 24 hours after the city council visited the premises to shut it down in the interim and will take immediate effect.

Claire Jones, Liverpool Council public protection officer, told the court how the sale of vapes and cigarettes to young people dates back to 2018. Mrs Jones added how there had been ‘several’ seizures of illegal vapes which are not permitted for sale in the UK owing to their size.

She said this had been an ‘ongoing issue’ and Manchester-based Dr Jafar had been given advice and guidance on how to comply. The court was told how complaints were received from members of the public regarding the sales – including on one occasion to a ‘vulnerable’ 13-year-old.

Dr Jafar, who was not represented in court, said he had ‘done his best’ to train staff and had taken measures including installing CCTV. Regarding the sale of a vape to an underage boy, Dr Jafar said a staff member had assumed he was with an older woman and upon discovering this was not the case, had followed the youth outside to demand it back. The shop owner said: “I’m doing my best, what more can I do?”

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The court heard how the issue of underage sales had become an issue to nearby Liverpool College, whose staff had to unclog drains to retrieve vapes pupils had bought from the shop and attempted to hide. It was said five underage test purchases had been failed, as well as a further test for loose cigarette sales.

District Judge James Hatton said: “For a lengthy period there have been ongoing problems with your shop.” He told Dr Jafar he was ‘entirely satisfied there has been criminal behaviour on those premises’. He added: “You say you have done everything you can. I take the view you have disregarded your obligations to the shop. Your training has fallen on deaf ears.”

Liverpool Council has secured a closure order for Britannia Stores. Image: Google Street ViewLiverpool Council has secured a closure order for Britannia Stores. Image: Google Street View
Liverpool Council has secured a closure order for Britannia Stores. Image: Google Street View | Google Street View

Judge Hatton also gave short shrift to the argument that it was a ‘great result’ that Dr Jafar’s staff had chased after a boy they had sold a vape to illegally. He said: “The misdeed had already been done at that point.”

Confirming the closure order would begin immediately, Judge Hatton said Dr Jafar had ‘failed to heed the warnings’ from the city council and the premises had been subject to ‘nothing but ongoing criminality’. Costs of £1,600 were also imposed.

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This is not the first time Dr Jafar has faced sanction. In 2019, he pleaded guilty to two offences after one of his employees was found to have sold loose cigarettes to youngsters five years ago. Dr Jafar was fined £400 for each offence including selling tobacco to children under 18 as well as supplying cigarettes in breach of packing regulations.

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