RECEIVED the application made by Trading Standards for a review of the Premises Licence (LN/201200255) held by Mr RajasingamSundaramoorthy at the premises known as and situated at Sarge Off Licence, 240 Fore Street, Edmonton, N18 2QD.
1. The introduction by Charlotte Palmer, Senior Licensing Enforcement Officer, including:
a. This was a review of the licence of Sarge Off Licence. The licence currently permitted off-sales of alcohol from 08:00 to 23:00 daily. The Premises Licence Holder and Designated Premises Supervisor (DPS) was Rajasingam Sundaramoorthy.
b. On 24 January 2020, Enfield Council’s Trading Standards submitted a review application in relation to the prevention of crime and disorder licensing objective, and seeking revocation of the premises licence in its entirety.
c. A large amount of non-duty paid cigarettes had been found at the premises, as set out in Annex 2 of the report.
d. There were no other representations in respect of this review application.
e. There had been no response from the premises licence holder to date.
f. If the Licensing Sub-Committee (LSC) was minded not to revoke the licence, Trading Standards proposed modifications to the licence conditions as set out in Annex 3, and asked that the licence be suspended until full compliance with the licence conditions had been demonstrated.
g. At the hearing, Trading Standards were represented by Ann Bowes, Senior Fair Trading Officer, and Rajasingam Sundaramoorthy and his son were present, and also represented by Michael Rogers, Counsel, Lamb Building.
2. The statement on behalf of Trading Standards, including:
a. The review application was based on the crime and disorder licensing objective; namely that non-duty paid tobacco was found on the premises.
b. On 29 October 2019, officers from Trading Standards and Licensing Enforcement, the Police Licensing Officer, and a dog handler and dogs from Wagtail International carried out a day of unannounced visits to shops in LB Enfield, including a visit to Sarge Off Licence. The premises was searched and a large amount of non-duty paid cigarettes and tobacco were found behind the counter. The items seized were 260 packets in total (5200 sticks), plus 31 single cigarettes, and 18 packets of hand rolling tobacco.
c. An interview under caution had been conducted, and a prosecution was ongoing. An explanation had been given that the items were for personal use and had been given as gifts from customers and had to be kept at the premises as they were not able to be kept at home.
d. At an officer visit out of hours, Rajasingam Sundaramoorthy was not present at the premises, nor was he on 29 October 2019. There was only one member of staff at the shop: Jesi Patni.
e. Conditions had been found in non compliance, namely Conditions 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11 and 12 of the licence. This led to the Licensing Authority having no confidence in Mr Sundaramoorthy to run the business within the law.
f. He had acted quickly to rectify compliance with the conditions, and demonstrated that Conditions 4, 5, 10, 11 and 12 were rectified. An officer visit on 3 March 2020 checked outstanding licence conditions 6 and 9. The premises licence holder was the only person on the premises; which was a breach of Condition 9. He advised that his son had been there earlier but had left to get lunch. CCTV footage was shown on a mobile phone, but it only went back to 12 February instead of the required 31 days. The licence holder did not know how to check the footage via the screen in the shop.
g. This was the first time non-duty paid goods had been found at this premises, but Trading Standards were of the opinion that given the large quantity seized, it was appropriate to recommend revocation of the premises licence. The Secretary of State guidance took smuggled tobacco very seriously, and the undermining of the prevention of crime and disorder licensing objective. Licence revocation should be seriously considered, even in the first instance.
h. If the LSC was minded not to revoke, then it was asked for suspension until there was full compliance with the licence conditions, including the new conditions and the granting of a minor variation.
3. In response to Members’ queries, it was confirmed that officers continued to recommend revocation of the licence because of the sheer quantity of non-duty paid goods found on the premises: that was a big enough offence to warrant revocation of the licence.
4. The statement on behalf of the Premises Licence Holder, including:
a. Mr Sundaramoorthy had held a personal licence since 2010 and there had been no issues with that. He had been DPS for eight years and no issues had been flagged up.
b. It appeared that on this occasion, Mr Sundaramoorthy had made a serious mistake, and he acknowledged that. He was not putting forward an excuse or reason. He acknowledged he should not have had the goods in his possession at all and he regretted what happened.
c. This was a very small family business. The size of the shop could be seen from the plan. The staff were Mr Sundaramoorthy himself, Mr Patni, and the DPS’s wife and from time to time his son and his daughter, though she lived primarily abroad.
d. Mr Sundaramoorthy was disabled, having lost use of his arm years ago, and required the help of a member of staff to run the business. It was a necessity to have someone else present most of the time.
e. The family’s entire livelihood depended on this business, particularly to pay for the children’s university education. Revocation of the licence would mean it could not trade as a going concern. Even a suspension of the licence would probably have the same effect. Such action would be draconian on this small business.
f. Mr Sundaramoorthy had taken the visit on 29 October seriously. Since then he had made sure he kept full records of purchases, especially of alcohol and tobacco. He had shown evidence he was already complying with one of the amended conditions by keeping all receipts showing use of legitimate wholesalers.
g. At the two officer visits since 29 October, the most significant point was that there was no evidence of illicit tobacco on the premises. In respect of licence conditions, the officers flagged up issues with some, but the DPS had sought to address concerns, as listed in their additional information. In respect of Condition 4, the sign was moved and corrected. The poster required by Condition 5 was now in place. Actions to meet Conditions 10, 11 and 12 were in place. Tobacco was now suitably covered up. Mr Sundaramoorthy had immediately ordered a proper cabinet and was awaiting its delivery which was expected within a few days. In the interim, tobacco products had been removed from view. Mr Sundaramoorthy had taken concrete steps and was very keen to make sure he continued to comply in future.
h. In respect of the 3 March visit and the number of staff on the premises, Mr Sundaramoorthy’s son had been there for the rest of the day, and arrangements were now in place that another individual would be present or that the shop may be closed for a short period of time. This was not a common condition for all premises, nor easy to comply with, but the issue had been taken seriously and would be continued.
i. A new, more sophisticated CCTV system had been installed in January and it had taken time for Mr Sundaramoorthy to get used to it, but he was now confident that images were retained for at least 31 days, all footage could be checked, and it was possible to view the time on the images.
j. It would not be reasonable or proportionate in respect of this business to revoke the licence, however it would be appropriate to add the proposed conditions. Mr Sundaramoorthy would make sure they were stringently applied, and appreciated that if they were not, he would face another LSC hearing.
k. Trading Standards had proposed additional conditions as set out in Annex 3. Mr Sundaramoorthy had made sure proposed Condition 12 and 13 were already happening. Condition 14 was more prescriptive, and Mr Sundaramoorthy had already shown he was meeting those requirements. He was also meeting Condition 15. There was no store room at this premises, but stock could be kept in a marked container. Mr Sundaramoorthy agreed to all the conditions proposed. He realised he made a serious mistake and wanted to work with Trading Standards and the LSC in the future to make sure he could continue to trade within the law.
5. Mr Sundaramoorthy and his representative responded to questions, including:
a. In response to Members’ queries around the quantity of cigarettes in the premises, and the number of occasions they had been given as gifts, it was advised that they were kept in the premises because the licence holder’s wife disapproved of smoking and did not want the cigarettes in the home. Mr Sundaramoorthy acknowledged these items should not have been at the shop. This was a mistake made recently and Mr Sundaramoorthy had otherwise conducted business lawfully. The cigarettes had been given as gifts on a few occasions, not one single occasion. The products had not been examined carefully at the time. They were not intended to be sold. Mr Sundaramoorthy’s wife had told him they could not be kept at home. Mr Sundaramoorthy took his premises licence very seriously.
b. It was confirmed by officers that the annual licence fee had been paid.
c. In response to further queries by Members relating to promotion of the licensing objectives, it was advised that the focus of the LSC should be on the causes of concern, and consideration of what steps were proportionate, and appropriate and reasonable in relation to the circumstances. In this case, revocation would not be reasonable to this small business, where this was the first incident. The guidance covered a wide range of criminal behaviour, and though revocation should be seriously considered by the LSC, in discussion the Members were invited to consider if that would be proper in this case.
d. In response to Members’ queries when the items were given to Mr Sundaramoorthy, and whether he seriously intended to smoke all those cigarettes, it was advised that he had been storing items at the shop for 1.5 years, after originally keeping them at home. The point he realised they should not be kept at the shop was after the inspection visit. As the cigarettes were a gift, he had not thought they were illegal.
e. In response to a question from the Chair, Mr Sundaramoorthy confirmed that he was fully aware of the conditions in his licence.
f. In response to Members’ queries regarding the CCTV system, Mr Sundaramoorthy acknowledged that it was his responsibility to make sure it was fit for purpose. He had originally wanted to install two new cameras to improve the coverage, but it seemed to have taken a while to get used to. The issue had now been resolved and the CCTV was now fully functioning.
6. The summary statement on behalf of Trading Standards that, although this was the first time that smuggled goods had been found at this premises, given the large volume, the Licensing Authority felt it appropriate that the licence should be revoked.
7. The summary statement by Charlotte Palmer, Senior Licensing Enforcement Officer, that having heard all the representations it was for the LSC to consider the steps appropriate in support of the licensing objectives, and highlighting the relevant policy and guidance, in particular s.11.27 and s.11.28.
1. In accordance with the principles of Section 100(a) of the Local Government Act 1972 to exclude the press and public from the meeting for this item of business on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Paragraph 7 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A to the Act.
The Panel retired, with the legal representative and committee administrator, to consider the application further and then the meeting reconvened in public.
2. The Chairman made the following statement:
“Having read and listened attentively to the written and oral representations, the Licensing Sub-Committee has resolved that the appropriate step to be taken to support the promotion of the licensing objectives is to revoke the licence held by Mr Rajasingam Sundaramoorthy at the premises known as and situated at Sarge Off Licence, 240 Fore Street, Edmonton, N18 2QD.
The Licensing Sub-Committee takes into consideration the guidance of s.11.28 and considers this is the appropriate and proportionate course of action that is required to address the concern that the presence of smuggled goods gives rise to, in the light of the licensing objective of the prevention of crime and disorder.
In light of guidance at s.11.27 and s.11.28 given the seriousness of the criminal activity, this course is appropriate even in circumstances where this is the first instance of the storage of smuggled goods at the premises.
The primary or principal reason for the review being called was the storage of non-duty paid tobacco products.
The breaches of conditions were incidental and secondary to the Sub-Committee’s consideration of the core matter of the storage of non-duty paid goods.
As such, the Licensing Sub-Committee was persuaded that the Trading Standards’ application case has been made in full.”
3. The Licensing Sub-Committee resolved to revoke the licence.