Illegal tobacco sellers ordered to pay back £20,000 of earnings

Two men who ran an illegal tobacco business have been ordered to repay nearly £20,000 of earnings after being convicted following an investigation by Cornwall Council Trading Standards.

Derek Noel Robinson and Stephen John Hore, both of Landreath Place, St Blazey had been caught selling illegal, non-duty paid tobacco in September 2018 after Trading Standards Officers executed search warrants at their home and at the stables where Robinson kept horses.

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Over 200 pouches of tobacco were seized and almost £20,000 was restrained in a bank account run by Robinson.

Following a protracted series of court hearings both men admitted supplying illegal tobacco and to have earned almost £20,000 from the illegal sales over the course of a year.

In passing sentence at Truro Crown Court today (Friday, November 1), HHJ Linford described the activity of the two men as “illegal and dishonest” and explained that only their previous clean record had spared them from a custodial sentence. He warned them that any repetition would result in a very different sentence being imposed.

They were each ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid, community work, to pay £1200 towards the costs of bringing the prosecution and to forfeit £19,940 as proceeds of crime. The 207 pouches of tobacco were also ordered to be forfeited for destruction.

Councillor Rob Nolan, Cornwall Council’s  Portfolio Holder for Environment and Public Protection said:  “Cornwall Council has been clamping down on this issue, but we also want to send a clear message to people. If you sell illegal products, chances are you will be caught and you could face serious penalties through the courts.

“Illegal tobacco trade harms everyone. All tobacco is harmful, but when it is also cheap and easily sourced, it makes it harder for people to quit and be smoke free. Children and young people are often easy targets. The loss of tax revenue also means less money is being spent in local communities on schools or on health care. The illegal tobacco trade also  has strong links to crime including drug dealing.

“Our message is clear – selling illegal tobacco is a crime which can carry fines, community orders or prison. The number of reports we are seeing shows more people have had enough and are providing us with information to stop local criminals selling and trading tobacco. Whether you are a shopkeeper or an individual, chances are you will be reported. Our crackdown will continue.”

Anyone with information about the sale of illegal tobacco or alcohol can make a report in confidence emailing report-it@cornwall.gov.uk

Steve Brown, Cornwall Council’s Interim Deputy Director of Public Health:

“Trading Standards action like this directly supports our efforts to reduce smoking levels in Cornwall. We know that price is an important motivator when a smoker decides to quit, so the sale of cheap tobacco absolutely undermines all encouragement to quit.

"As smoking is the number one cause of preventable ill health anything that can be done to reduce smoking levels has to be a good thing for the residents of Cornwall.”