A former off-licence manager in Whitchurch was given a 12-month community order after he was convicted of a range of criminal offences by Shropshire Council’s trading standards service. Steven Clark, of Brookside, Telford, appeared at Telford Magistrates Court on Monday, where he pleaded guilty to a total of 14 offences relating to possession of counterfeit tobacco and other goods, the sale of tobacco to an underage person and breaching UK Safety Regulations relating to the packaging of and health warnings on tobacco and related products.

He was also ordered to perform 80 hours of unpaid work and a further 10 rehabilitation activity hours, while also have to pay a contribution of £400 towards prosecution costs as well as an £85 victim surcharge.

The sentence comes after he was twice found with a variety of counterfeit and smuggled cigarettes and tobacco at The Local in Whitchurch High Street; officers also seized vodka destined for export and a large quantity of vaping liquid refills containing nicotine.

Despite being under investigation and interviewed about these offences and claiming to operate a ‘Challenge 25’ policy, in October 2018, Mr Clark went on and sold a packet of cigarettes to a 16-year-old girl as part of a trading standards test purchasing exercise.

Gwilym Butler, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for communities and place planning, said: “This prosecution should send a strong message to those involved in this illegal trade that this activity will not be tolerated.

"It concerns me that those selling illegal tobacco clearly have no regard to other legal controls and as this case shows are willing to sell cigarettes to minors.

"As well as the obvious health concerns this raises, legitimate businesses in Shropshire will inevitably be losing customers to the illegal trade in tobacco.”

Grant Tunnadine, investigation, compliance and intervention team manager for trading standards, said: "I welcome the sentence handed out by the court and hope this serves as a reminder to those that consider the sale of illicit tobacco to be a victimless crime to think again and for all traders to ensure that they adopt the procedures necessary to prevent illegal sales to minors.”