Police have expressed annoyance and frustration at legislation which enables two Spalding shops caught with thousands of smuggled cigarettes to freely continue selling licensed goods.
Karwan Ahmad had his premises licences for Baltic and Winsover revoked by South Holland District Council after the criminal activity was uncovered last December. Electronic hides behind false walls had been created at Baltic to stash contraband goods in what police described as a “sophisticated attempt to avoid detection”.
However, Mr Ahmad has appealed against the revocations, meaning he can continue selling alcohol until at least the appeal is disposed of. Police say that could be as far away as 12 months.
Sgt Kim Enderby, of Lincolnshire Police’s alcohol licensing team, said: “This is deliberate criminal activity and it’s our concern that if these people are allowed to continue then the criminal activity will continue.”
He added: “Our frustration is that the public perception is that both ourselves and the council are not doing enforcement action.
“We are, but the current legislation allows 21 days for appeal from the date a licence is revoked.
“We believe that the appeal process is open to abuse. They will appeal because that gives them the opportunity and time to apply for a premises licence in someone else’s name.
“What I will say is that we are aware of premises that have appealed and we continue to monitor them both overtly and covertly throughout the course of the appeal.”
A premises licence appellant does not have to detail their grounds for appeal at the outset. When it goes before magistrates, if it can then be demonstrated that the off-licence is meeting the council’s four licensing objectives, the outcome can be that the business can continue selling alcohol – having never lost a day’s trade in the commodity.
Sgt Enderby said: “If it was a case of revocation of the premises licence means immediate revocation, it would have a deterrent effect on other businesses.
“We have looked at everything possible to resolve this and the PCC [Alan Hardwick] has written to the Home Secretary.
“We have tried to get the ball rolling but this isn’t just a problem in Lincolnshire, it’s across the country.
“It’s something that needs to be highlighted so that people are aware of the situation because they moan to us or the council, but we are doing all we can and working within the legislation that is there.”
Following the council’s hearings into Mr Ahmad’s Winsover Road businesses, his premises licence application for the former China City Restaurant was withdrawn. A subsequent application by Hassan Khoshparwar is currently before the council.