Illegal tobacco crackdown has help from four-legged crime fighters

20 January 2016

Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Trading Standards officers enlisted the help of two four-legged friends in the fight against traders selling counterfeit or contraband tobacco.

In the last week tobacco detection dogs Bertie and Beck sniffed out 1580 cigarettes and 500g of tobacco that was subsequently seized by Trading Standards. The operation led to one arrest and a further person being interviewed under caution.

The illicit products were seized during raids in Chester city centre carried out by Trading Standards officers, who are part of the Council’s Regulatory Services Team, working alongside Cheshire Police.

The two dogs, provided by Wagtail UK Ltd, helped detect the concealed stashes of tobacco in premises in the city centre.  Both Bertie, a Sprollie (Springer and Collie cross) and Beck (a Springer Spaniel) were previously rescue dogs.

Seizures included cigarettes and tobacco that fail to contain UK health warnings, do not comply with labelling requirements and cannot be legally sold in the UK. 

Councillor Mark Henesy, Cabinet Member for Environment and Community, said: “Tobacco detection dogs have become valued members of our Regulatory Services team.

“People may be tempted by the cheap price tag, but it's worth considering the great cost to your health, safety and community. Illegal tobacco supports other criminal activity and has many damaging effects on our local communities, as well as causing poor health.

“Dogs like Bertie and Beck can find tobacco and cigarettes even if they are hidden in the most unlikely places. Offenders need to know that they will face prosecution if they choose to deal in these illegal products.” The raids were carried out as part of the ongoing Operation Henry 2, supported by the Trading Standards Institute (TSI). The joint agency activity was conducted by officers from Cheshire West and Chester Regulatory Services, Cheshire Police, assisted by Wagtail UK Ltd.

Launched last year and supported by the Department of Health, Operation Henry was the first large scale coordinated trading standards investigation of its kind to tackle the supply of illegal tobacco. It resulted in the seizure of more than 2.5 million cigarettes nationwide worth £614,488 with concealed tobacco products found in walls, under floorboards and inside furniture.

Anyone with information about  the sale of illegal tobacco can pass the details on to Trading Standards confidentially through Citizens Advice Consumer Service on: 03454 040506, or alternatively anonymously call the Tackling Illegal Tobacco hotline on 0300 999 0000 or report online at www.keep-it-out.co.uk.

Bertie and Beck ready to take part in Operation Henry with officers from Trading Standards and Cheshire Police, and their handler from Wagtail UK, Mike Harris.
Bertie and Beck ready to take part in Operation Henry with officers from Trading Standards and Cheshire Police, and their handler from Wagtail UK, Mike Harris.

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