BUNGLING trading standards bosses raided a newsagents seizing ‘illegal’ cigarettes before returning them because they had fouled-up.
Doncaster Council officials swooped on Diane’s News in Balby stuffing £400 worth of everyday brands into bags claiming they broke Government rules about health warnings on packets.
However, red-faced bosses returned to the shop in Wivelsfield Road around two hours later saying they had made an “honest mistake”.
Shopkeeper Diane Peers has now spoken of her humiliation over the episode in front of customers, and which she says has led to folk going elsewhere for their tobacco.
The 48-year-old said: “They did it in front of a shop full of customers, I was made out to be selling illegal cigarettes and tobacco when I wasn’t.
“I have done everything by the book since I have taken over this shop.”
Mrs Peers had to be told by her son Scott, 21, that officers had arrived in the shop because she was out working in her other role as a transport escort for young people with autism.
“Scott was gobsmacked when they told him why they were inspecting the shop, he couldn’t believe it,” said Mrs Peers of Buckingham Road, Town Moor.
“I went in and showed them receipts of when I had bought the cigarettes from the wholesalers I always do which is Batleys (a Doncaster cash and carry), but they were just not interested.”
Cigarettes on sale featured written warnings but trading standards claimed they should also have included a picture.
By law cigarette packaging has to include picture warnings, however images described as being ‘pictorial’ by the government can also be text.
“They should’ve known the legislation before they came. It’s not on and my trade has suffered as a result,” said Mrs Peers who took over the shop last May.
“They said they’d made a mistake but didn’t apologise for the humiliation they caused me.
“They have a job to do, I understand that, but how can they get it so wrong?”
Richard Huby, is president of the National Retail Federation in Doncaster and owns the Paper House in Market Place and Wood Street.
He said: “They appear to have acted heavy-handedly in this case which I think was the wrong way to go about it.
“Our members are hard-working and reliable shopkeepers who are trying to earn an honest living and who work closely with trading standards in order to make sure no illegal goods are in their shops, so I am gobsmacked that they came in with such a heavy-handed approach.
“They should have spoken to the shopkeeper away from customers if they felt she had broken the law and not made such a scene.”
Gill Gillies, Doncaster Council’s assistant director of environment, said: “Council officers made an honest mistake which they quickly put right.
“I would like to apologise to Diane Peers for any upset or inconvenience caused by their action.”