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Redruth man jailed for selling illegal tobacco

Roy Grenfell, 70, of Close Hill, Redruth has admitted two offences and pleaded guilty to the supply of illegal tobacco products, and the evasion of taxes and duties. He has been sentenced to an immediate six month prison term.

Grenfell, who had already been convicted of selling illegal tobacco in 2017, appeared at Truro Magistrates Court again on January 29 after being caught by Cornwall Council’s Trading Standards officers for a second time in August last year.

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The court heard that in 2017 Grenfell had been convicted of supplying illegal tobacco from his home and from a burger van in Pool, near Camborne.

On that occasion Trading Standards officers recovered a total of 298 pouches of hand rolling tobacco and a substantial amount of cash from his home.

Grenfell pleaded guilty at Truro magistrates court to a total of six charges, which resulted in him being ordered to pay fines, a victim surcharge and a deprivation order totalling £27,209.49

But, despite that conviction, Trading Standards received further reports that Grenfell had continued to sell tobacco from his home.

On 8 August 2019, Trading Standards executed a warrant at his home address on Close Hill, Redruth. They found 638 pouches of tobacco that did not conform to the UK labelling requirements.

None of the pouches were printed in English and none conformed to the standard packaging standards. If it had been legitimate, the tobacco would have been worth around £14,500.

Representing Grenfell, solicitor Mark Charnley accepted there had been a previous conviction but advised the court that the defendant was 70 years of age, married, and lived in a council property on a fairly deprived estate in Redruth.

He explained that Grenfell had very poor health and suffered with emphysema, COPD and arthritis and was on heavy medication as a result.

His illnesses meant that he had not worked since the 1990’s and as a result the family would be regarded as a low income one. He stated that imprisonment would have a huge impact on the defendant due to his age and ill-health.

However, magistrates stated that Grenfell’s offending had been aggravated by the previous convictions and described it as premeditated and motivated by personal gain. They did give him credit for the early guilty plea which reduced the term of imprisonment from 36 weeks to 26 weeks.

Grenfell was also ordered to pay a contribution to the prosecution costs of £1,760 and a victim surcharge of £40.

Steve Brown, Cornwall Council’s Interim Deputy Director of Public Health welcomed the sentence imposed by the court and explained the harm caused by illegal cigarettes. He said: “Almost 1,000 people die each year in Cornwall from smoking-related illness. The sale of cheap tobacco absolutely undermines all encouragement to quit and so we have to encourage all possible action against those who sell illegal tobacco and cigarettes.”

Councillor Rob Nolan, Cornwall Council’s Portfolio Holder for Environment and Public Protection said: “Our message is clear – selling illegal tobacco is a crime which can carry fines, community orders or prison. In this case the seller had already been prosecuted once but had obviously not learnt his lesson and the prison sentence imposed by the court clearly reflects that attitude.

“More and more of these cases are based upon information provided by local residents, a clear indication that communities are not happy to have this type of criminal activity taking place near their home and businesses. Whether you are a shopkeeper or an individual selling from home, the chances are you will be reported. Our crackdown will continue.”

A HMRC spokesperson said: “The sale of illegal tobacco will not be tolerated by us or our partner agencies. Disrupting criminal trade is at the heart of our strategy to clampdown on the illicit tobacco market, which costs the UK around £1.8 billion a year. This is theft from the taxpayer and undermines legitimate traders.

“We encourage anyone with information about the illegal sale of tobacco to report it online or call the Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”

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

Story posted on 3 February