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Camborne man admits selling illegal tobacco

Neil Browning, 57, of Marriots Avenue, Weeth Road, Camborne appeared before Truro Magistrates on 9 September 2020. He admitted four charges in relation to the supply of illegal tobacco products, and the evasion of taxes and duties. He was:

  • sentenced to 60 hours of community service
  • ordered to pay legal costs and
  • forfeited cash of more than £7,000
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The Court heard that Browning had been selling the illegal tobacco products to a network of contacts. On 13 September 2019 officers from Cornwall Council Trading Standards and Devon & Cornwall Police executed a warrant at his home address. There they found 1,800 counterfeit Richmond cigarettes and 76 pouches of tobacco that did not conform to the UK labelling requirements. A mobile phone, notebooks and cash totalling over £3,700 were also seized. 

Representing the defendant, Mr Moore of Howell Hylton Solicitors explained that Browning was 57 years old with no previous convictions.  He had a wife who was partially sighted for whom he was the carer. He was at risk of losing his job that he had held for over 20 years. He also explained that Browning was on medication to assist him with sleeping as a result of the court proceedings hanging over him.  

The Magistrates explained that they viewed these offences as very serious and that the uniformity of the packaging and warnings were in place so that people were not attracted to a certain brand. They reminded the defendant that the Government and local authority spent a great deal of time, money and effort in trying to deter people from smoking. 

Browning was sentenced to a 12-month Community Order and ordered to complete 60 hours of unpaid work.  

He was also ordered to pay £3,500 towards the costs and a victim surcharge of £90. Although Browning asked to pay this by instalments the Magistrates noted that he had savings of £7,000. Therefore ordered that the £3,590 should be paid in full with 56 days.  

They also ordered the forfeiture and deprivation of all the items seized from him during the warrant. 

Rachel Wigglesworth, Cornwall Council’s Director of Public Health, welcomed the sentence imposed by the court and explained the harm caused by illegal cigarettes. She 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. 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 admitted that he risked losing his job for the sake of earning money from the illegal sales.  It has taken a criminal conviction for the seriousness to register with him. 

“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 homes and businesses. Whether you are a shopkeeper or an individual selling from home, the 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 by emailing report-it@cornwall.gov.uk.