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Hartlepool shop faces licence review over illicit vapes

February 17, 2024

11 O’Clock Shop in Stockton Road, Hartlepool (Photo: Google Maps via LDRS)

By Nic Marko, Local Democracy Reporter

A convenience store is to have its licence reviewed following concerns around “illicit vapes” being sold at the site.

Hartlepool Borough Council trading standards officers visited 11 O’Clock Shop in Stockton Road after empty boxes, which previously contained illicit vapes, were spotted near the premises.

A test purchase was subsequently made by a local authority officer in November, who was shown four different flavours of ‘Crystal Prime 7000 Puffs’ “from under the counter”.

The product contains 15ml of liquid and is “therefore illegal to be sold”, with the visiting officer charged £13 for the device, according to council documents.

Later that month trading standards officers and Cleveland Police executed a search warrant at the shop and on the van belonging to the store licence holder, Devinder Malhotra.

According to the licensing review application, 133 illegal devices were found, 33 below the shop counter and 100 in the van parked outside, with a total estimated street value of £1,729.

It added it is not the first time the store has faced such problems, and in October 2022 a council officer made a test purchase of an illicit vape.

This resulted in trading standards officers searching the premises and finding 296 illicit vapes with an estimated street value of over £3,000, which led to a “final written warning” for Mr Malhotra.

Council documents also noted during the November search officers were advised CCTV at the premises was “not working”, which breaches a condition on the store’s licence.

The review application, submitted by a council trading standards officer, claimed “Mr Malhotra knew that the products [vapes] were illegal; having had ample warnings and chose to sell them anyway”.

It added: “It is trading standards contention that the continued supply of illicit items casts significant doubt on his suitability to be licensed to sell alcohol.”

The documents stated the licence holder, Mr Malhotra, was interviewed under caution in December and admitted the non-compliant device was sold to the undercover officer in November but “denied that he was otherwise selling them”.

According to council reports, he stated a rep from a wholesale company he deals with had “become self-employed and had delivered them to the premises on a trial basis”, and he didn’t pay for them.

Documents added Mr Malhotra has “been polite and co-operative with officers and it’s clear that he provides the local community with a good level of service”.

(Local Democracy Reporting Service)