Company fined £21k for underage sales

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Latest news from the Suffolk Free Press,, @sfpsudbury on Twitter

The company behind a Sudbury convenience store has been told to pay £21,905 after being caught selling alcohol to children.

In January last year, staff at McColl’s on Market Hill were caught selling alcohol to a 16-year-old youth.

Within a three-month period, four further “unacceptable” sales were recorded at two other Suffolk stores owned by Martin McColl Ltd – the parent company.

All four sting operations were carried out by staff from Trading Standards.

Magistrates presiding over the case at Bury St Edmunds Magistrates’ Court said: “The Sudbury incident should have served as a warning, but little notice was paid to this.”

At a later date, alcohol was sold to two volunteers, both aged 16, on the same evening at McColl’s Bury St Edmunds outlet in the Hardwick Shopping Centre.

Following this, there were two further sales at a store in St Mary’s Square, Newmarket, to two 16-year-olds.

At court, the company pleaded guilty to charges of selling alcohol to children.

A total of three fines were handed out – £1,500 for the incident in Sudbury; £4,000 for Bury St Edmunds and £13,500 for the “unacceptable incident” in Newmarket.

The company was also ordered to pay court costs of £2,785, as well as a victim surcharge of £120 – totalling £21,905.

Speaking after the hearing, Suffolk county councillor Colin Spence, cabinet member for public protection, said: “Trading Standards has a responsibility to enforce the law regarding underage sales.

“Businesses that supply age-restricted products have an equal, if not greater, responsibility to ensure they do not break these laws and do not sell age-restricted products, such as alcohol or tobacco, to children.”

Mr Spence said the practice was not acceptable and said preventing these illegal sales was easily avoidable.

“There are simple steps a business can follow to prevent prosecution,” he said.

“Such as ensuring all staff are trained in the sale of age restricted products.”

A spokesman for Martin McColl said: “We are extremely disappointed that we failed to uphold our own high standards on this occasion and thank Trading Standards for bringing the matter to our attention.

“We have undertaken additional training for staff in these stores.”