April 18 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, January 30, 2014
A Norwich shop has been stripped of its licence to sell alcohol after serving drink to underage customers – including a girl aged just 13.
The Norwich Mini Market and Off Licence in St Stephens Road saw its alcohol licence suspended for three months by Norwich City Council’s licensing committee last June, after trading standards officers recorded the shop selling alcohol to children.
Owner Ali Capti yesterday made an appeal against the ban, and the conditions that came with it – but a three-man licensing bench not only upheld the decision but permanently revoked the shop’s licence.
Norwich Magistrates’ Court heard that counterfeit alcohol and cigarettes had been found hidden on the premises, and shop staff had sold alcohol to underage customers, including a bottle of vodka to a 17-year-old who was later hospitalised.
Bench chairman Paul Allen said the evidence showed “a tolerance for criminal activity on the premises in addition to the underage sales of alcohol, and the criteria for the prevention of crime and disorder – and the protection of children from harm – can only be made met by the revocation of the premises licence.”
Mr Capti was the licensee at the time of the offences, but said he was not in day-to-day control of the shop, having passed that responsibility to his cousin, Mehmet Sert.
He blamed the illegal sales on an inexperienced staff member who had since been sacked, and said since learning of the offences at last June’s committee meeting he had taken greater control and put in place measures to avoid a repeat.
He said: “I would like to assure you all we have a system in the system and everything is under control. Losing the licence for the shop would result in the shop being closed.”
Homewatch coordinator Doreen Cochrane, who lives nearby, said she believed staff in the shop regularly sold alcohol to underage or drunk customers.
She said: “We get a lot drinking, people urinating, people swearing, shouting, quite a lot of abuse – we’ve put up with a lot. I’m speaking on behalf of a lot of people.”
Trading standards officers conducted test purchases at the shop, including one in February 2011 in which a 13-year-old girl was sold a bottle of the alcopop WKD Blue.
In December 2012, a 17-year-old girl was taken to hospital after having drunk a bottle of vodka bought on her way to college, and she later claimed she had been served alcohol from the shop four times before.
Prosecutor David Lownes said the shop’s owners had shown “very poor management and control” and that the officers’ evidence demonstrated the “continuing and significant risk” of the sale of underage alcohol.
Mr Capti disputed the sale to the 13-year-old, calling it “absolutely unforgiveable”, but said measures had been taken after the other sales, including putting automatic reminders on tills, conducting regular reviews of the CCTV footage, keeping a refusals booklet and planning training for Mr Sert and his wife.