In what is thought to be the first prosecution of its kind, a Gateshead shopkeeper has been found guilty of selling alcohol below the minimum price. In related prosecutions, the shopkeeper was also found guilty of selling counterfeit products.
Ahtsham Ghafoor, a Gateshead shopkeeper was selling bottles of 37.5% abv. vodka at a price of £7.99.
By virtue of the mandatory conditions which attach to all alcohol premises licences in England and Wales, which came in to force in February 2014, the minimum price for such a product is £8.89,
Mr Ghafoor was fined a total of £3,200 and ordered to pay costs of £1,331. The vodka was seized by local trading standards officers and ordered to be destroyed.
Mr Ghafoor was also found guilty of selling a product that was falsely described as being vodka, and of falsely declaring that the abv. of the product was 37.5% when in fact it was 23.2% abv.
Alice Wiseman, Gateshead Councils director of Public Health is reported as saying that "the outcome sends a message to all licensees in our area that they must act responsibly. The harm that can be caused by cheap alcohol can be massive. Retailers need to think about the impact of their actions."
When the mandatory conditions relating to sales below minimum price were introduced in February 2014, whilst the conditions applied to all licensed premises, they were largely aimed at the off licences that would be looking to encourage customers into their premises. Except for the very unruly operator, operators of on licensed premises had little difficulty in comply with the conditions.
Whilst the case of Mr Ghafoor is linked with the sale of products that were falsely described as being vodka, it is nevertheless a timely reminder to all holders of premises licences to ensure that they comply with all the conditions attached to their licences.
In a market which is becoming increasingly competitive market, it is also a reminder to operators to ensure that they are aware of the provenance of the products that they sell, and the consequence of failing to do so.
Operators should also be on their guard as the case may also inspire similar enforcement action across the country by other authorities who make take confidence from this successful prosecution for sale of alcohol below the minimum price.