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Food Store close over crime and disorder risks

A Middlesbrough food store has been forced to shut to prevent crime and disorder.

The closure of Braian Continental Food Store on Linthorpe Road was ordered by Teesside Magistrates on Tuesday (September 26) following an application by Middlesbrough Council’s Public Protection department.

The move followed the seizure cigarettes and other tobacco products - suspected to be counterfeit and failing to comply with UK product safety regulations - from the premises on September 21 and Council officers were also prevented from carrying out their enforcement duties.

During the visit a Council officer was assaulted when a man at the premises fled with a suitcase filled with illegal cigarettes.

Other employees also fled from the premises and Environmental Health Officers were left with an empty premises, with no owner or staff present. The Police had to take action to secure the premises.

There has been a history of criminal behaviour at Braian. In 2015, following seizure of illegal cigarettes from the premises, the owner of the business was prosecuted and found guilty of Trade Marks and Consumer Safety laws. 

This week’s closure was secured under the provisions of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. 

Judith Hedgley, Middlesbrough Council’s Head of Public Protection, said: “This is the first time the Council has sought a Closure Order under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act against a business in Middlesbrough.  

“The conduct of the owner and others at this business premises amounts to disorder and a flagrant disregard for the law.

“The obstruction and assault on a Council Officer obviously causes great concern.

“This type of activity undermines the enforcement role of officers and put them at great risk.

“We considered that the behaviour of the people associated with this business showed that further disorder was likely to occur and therefore it was necessary to apply for the Closure Order. 

“The sale of counterfeit or other illicit tobacco products is a trade known to support organised crime and can lead to disorder and nuisance within communities.

“It also adds to the burden on society of smoking-related ill-health and has no regard for UK consumer protection laws.”

After hearing of the previous conviction of the business owner and evidence of the incident on September 21, Teesside Magistrates’ Court accepted that a person(s) had engaged or was likely to engage in disorderly, offensive or criminal behaviour on the premises; that the use of the premises has resulted in or is likely to result in serious nuisance to members of the public; and that there had been, or there is likely to be disorder associated with the use of the premises.  

The Court issued a Closure Order that prohibits anyone from entering the premises for a period of up to three months.

Anyone caught breaching the Order could, if convicted, be subject to a prison sentence, a fine, or both. 

Councillor Julia Rostron, Middlesbrough Council’s Executive Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health, said: “Council officers should be able to carry out their work to protect the public without being obstructed or be in fear of assault.

“The actions of this business and the behaviour of those people associated with it are totally unacceptable and it will not be tolerated.  

“Anyone found to be conducting themselves in a manner that is unlawful, or being involved in the sale of illegal tobacco products, will face tough sanctions such at Closure Orders.  

“The Council will not hesitate to take whatever course of action is necessary to deal with the trade in illegal tobacco, which includes the seizure of goods, closure of business premises and the prosecution of offenders.

“Offenders may also be faced with action under laws that seek to confiscate or recover the proceeds of crime.”