A Gateshead shopkeeper has been prosecuted for selling alcohol below the minimum price in what is thought to be the first case of its kind under the Licensing Act 2003.
On 19 May 2016 Ahtsham Ghafoor was found guilty at Gateshead Magistrates’ Court on four charges relating to the sale of ‘Kommissar Vodka’, which he was selling at less than the cost of the duty and VAT payable on it.
This follows the introduction in February 2014 of mandatory conditions on premises licences making it an offence to sell any product at less than this minimum price.
The Government introduced the ban on ‘below cost’ selling in a bid to tackle the worst examples of sales of cheap alcohol.
The minimum legal price for a bottle of 37.5% ABV vodka would be £8.89 but Ghafoor was selling the vodka for £7.99.
Ghafoor was fined a total of £3,200, ordered to pay costs of £1,331 and required to pay a victim surcharge of £120. The vodka seized by Trading Standards officers was ordered to be destroyed.
According to the council, some of the vodka being sold by Ghafoor was found to be counterfeit, and was unfit for human consumption.
Ghafoor was also found guilty of selling a product that was falsely described as vodka, and of falsely declaring an alcohol content of 37.5% ABV when the alcohol content was in fact 23.3% ABV.
Alice Wiseman, Gateshead Council’s Director of Public Health, said: “This outcome sends a message out to licensees in our area that they must act responsibly. The harm that can be caused by cheap alcohol is massive. Retailers need to think about the impact of their actions.”
Sue Taylor from Balance – the North East Alcohol Office – said: "We welcome the guilty verdict in this case and commend the work of the local authority in identifying alcohol sold at a price contravening the 'below cost' ban. At the same time, the 'below cost' ban is nowhere near as effective as the introduction of a minimum unit price for alcohol, which would help to protect young people and dependent drinkers in communities across the North East."
For more information on the case, please contact Tim Briton, National Lead Licensing Officer for Lawyers in Local Government and a lawyer in Gateshead’s legal team. He can be contacted by email.