A SHOP shamed as the worst in West Yorkshire for selling alcohol and cigarettes to underage children has had its licence to sell them removed.
Naseem Sarwar, who owns The Off License in Manchester Road at Longroyd Bridge, had his personal and premises licences suspended for six months by Huddersfield magistrates.
His brother, Mohammed Afzal, was barred from selling tobacco or cigarette paper for a year.
They had been responsible for serving booze and cigarettes to test purchasers aged 14 and 16.
West Yorkshire Trading Standards (WYTS) said in a recent investigation into underage sales, the shop was the worst performer.
Samantha Lawton, prosecuting, said the shop was visited on February 5 following complaints to the service.
She said: “The WYTS underwent a test purchase and an officer visited the premises accompanied by a 14-year-old boy.
“The officer witnessed the sale of a bottle of alcohol (VK blue) and a packet of 10 (Lambert and Butler) cigarettes.
“On April 9 the officer accompanied by a 16-year-old visited again and witnessed the sale of a bottle of alcohol (WKD) and a packet of cigarettes.
“No attempt was made to ask for age or proof of ID on either of the visits.”
Afzal, 50, was working behind the counter on both occasions.
He was interviewed under caution and said he had believed the purchasers to be 18, but admitted that he found it difficult to judge ages.
Sarwar, 40, was also interviewed and said he did operate a challenge 21 policy, although there were no posters on display indicating this.
He said he did everything he could to prevent underage sales and had never been personally responsible for this.
But magistrates heard that the store had failed a previous test purchase in July 2010, this time by a 15-year-old girl.
The pair, both from Bankfield Road, Longroyd Bridge, were interviewed then and offered a caution.
Mrs Lawton said: “Since July 31, 2010 until August 25, 2011, The Off License has been identified as the poorest performing retail premises in the whole of West Yorkshire in regards to underage sales law.
“From the period of April 1 2010, to present, over 100 test purchases have been carried out.
“The Off License is the only premises within this period who have sold six products (over three separate dates) to underage children not only in KMC, but in the whole of West Yorkshire.”
Magistrates were told that cigarettes and alcohol constituted 60% of sales in the shop.
David Chant, representing Sarwar, said that even though his client had not been on the premises during the sales, he was responsible as the licence holder and as liable as if he had been there.
He said he had paid for his brother to attend a personal licence holder’s course, but he had failed this twice.
Sarwar then continued to allow his brother to serve behind the counter ‘out of a misjudged sense of loyalty’, but then they mutually agreed that he shouldn’t work there anymore.
He said that Afzal was replaced by another worker and that a logbook kept on underage sales had recorded 217 refusals in the last six months.
The shop passed another test purchase on July 29.
Mr Chant added: “This demonstrates that Mr Sarwar has tried to get things right.
“His livelihood depends on the personal and premises licence.
“If he loses either of these he will not be able to support his family, including his disabled four-year-old son.”
Sonia Kidd, defending Afzal, said he was incredibly upset about the impact his mistakes could have on his brother’s business.
She said he has suffered from racial abuse during his work and found challenging people about their age difficult.
The pair had pleaded guilty to two charges each of selling alcohol and cigarettes to children under the age of 18.
Sarwar also admitted persistently selling alcohol to children.
As well as suspending his licences, magistrates fined him £1,245.
Afzal was ordered to pay £790 and was barred from selling tobacco-related products to any person for a year.
A spokesman for West Yorkshire Trading Standards said: “This is very pleasing result which reflects the extent to which The Off License has been prepared to flout the law.
“This particular premises has an appalling track record in relation to underage sales and this has clearly been reflected in the sanctions imposed by the court.
“This is the first time WYTS has made an application to impose a ban on cigarette sales.
“Hopefully this case will send a stern warning to other retailers who fail to take their responsibilities seriously.”