Prosecuting a neglectful pig farmer, uncovering illegal tobacco sellers and stopping unsafe fish being sold all feature in trading standards report

PUBLISHED: 15:19 17 October 2019 | UPDATED: 15:36 17 October 2019

Three dogs helped authorities sniff out 26,000 illegal cigarettes and tobacco in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Picture: CITY COUNCIL

Three dogs helped authorities sniff out 26,000 illegal cigarettes and tobacco in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Picture: CITY COUNCIL

CITY COUNCIL

Horrific cases of animal neglect, a company that produced counterfeit sweatshirts "on a mass scale" and the proliferation of illicit tobacco all feature in the annual report by Cambridgeshire trading standards.

Cambridgeshire County Council sezie unsafe goods from a market trader. PHOTOP: CambridgeshireTtrading Standards.Cambridgeshire County Council sezie unsafe goods from a market trader. PHOTOP: CambridgeshireTtrading Standards.

Peter Gell, head of regulatory services for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, told councillors that sharing services between both authorities had delivered £35,000 in savings and increased its national reputation for excellence.

"In terms of protecting the vulnerable, the service brought a major prosecution against a Peterborough furniture company which had preyed on elderly and vulnerable people," he said.

"Such was the nature of their crimes it resulted in six prison sentences as well as proceeds of crime confiscation order of £350,000."

His 2018/19 report offers an insight into the scale, often complexity and variety of work undertaken by trading standards.

One of the service's biggest successes was in relation to tackling illicit and unsafe tobacco.

In an operation in January 2.9kg of hand rolling tobacco and 5,620 cigarettes were seized from premises in March; the shop had its licence revoked.

Three dogs helped authorities sniff out 26,000 illegal cigarettes and tobacco in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Picture: CITY COUNCILThree dogs helped authorities sniff out 26,000 illegal cigarettes and tobacco in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Picture: CITY COUNCIL

"Illicit tobacco has been an issue in Fenland for a number of years, despite multiple operations with HM Revenue and Customs," he says.

A prosecution, he says, is pending after a storage container was found with 22kg of hand rolling tobacco and 22,780 cigarettes.

And in another Fenland case, he reports, a shop surrendered their licence the day before a hearing into 1,320 illicit cigarettes in Wisbech.

The service also succeeded in its animal welfare prosecutions across Cambridgeshire. During an inspection by a trading standards animal health officer, "a horrific case of neglect" was exposed.

Fifty-five pigs had to be euthanized whilst in another similar case his officers found 124 pigs and 58 sheep left without water to drink or dry bedding to sleep on.

"A number of animal carcasses were also found at the farm breaching strict rules on the disposal of animal by-products," said Mr Gell. That farmer, too, was successfully prosecuted.

Some of the items seized at Bourn market.Some of the items seized at Bourn market.

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An intriguing case for his department was the discovery of a gang that was selling fish that was unfit for human consumption.

As well as impacting on legitimate fish sellers, he said, in this instance they had also pressured one customer into buying 20 boxes of fish and then fraudulently tampering with her payment changing it from £52 to £520.

There was also the successful shutting down of the website cambridgetv.co.uk following numerous complaints.

The business was "a sham" concluded trading standards but to date they have been unable to trace the individuals behind it.

Protecting children from dangerous toys and equipment also featured in their work last year.

Some of the items seized at Bourn market.Some of the items seized at Bourn market.

Importation of more than 1,000 teddy bears by a Cambridgeshire business was halted.

Tests found the products were "unsafe due to inadequate seam strength. Seams must be strong enough to prevent babies and young children accessing the stuffing and choking on it," says the report.

Trading standards report how they worked with importer who, as a new business, received advice on toy safety regulations and responsibilities of importers.

The report says that in 2018/19 the service provided 928 hours of advice to local authorities and 33 hours of chargeable business advice. To date it has provided 670 hours of local authority advice demo

The report describes the merged service as "one of the national leaders in the field" after it was a finalist in the Office of Product Safety & Standards Regulatory Excellence Awards.

It states that the service "continues to provide good value for money and has been successful in obtaining grant funding as well as selling services to bring in additional revenue".

Some of the items seized at Bourn market.Some of the items seized at Bourn market.

Public Health provided the service with a grant of £25,000 to deliver underage sales and illicit tobacco enforcement work across Cambridgeshire.

The report adds that successful confiscation orders have been obtained for South Cambs District Council and Huntingdon District Council's fraud teams, and that a major case is underway for Peterborough's housing team.

The report went to the county council's economy and environment committee on October 17.

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