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Welcome to SHAAP’s (Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems) weekly media monitoring service.

10 September 2015
 

#MUPsaveslives

 

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This briefing aims to provide a ‘snap shot’ of latest news on alcohol and health policy. The inclusion of an article in the briefing should not imply that SHAAP approves or condones the content.

SHAAP provides a coordinated, coherent and authoritative medical and clinical voice on the need to reduce the impact of alcohol related harm on the health and wellbeing of the people in Scotland. SHAAP was set up by the Scottish Medical Royal Colleges, through their Scottish Intercollegiate Group (SIGA) and is governed by an Executive Committee made up of members of the Royal Colleges.

If we want to help those affected by their own and others' drinking we must have minimum unit pricing

There was much PR spinning from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) on the opinion of the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice. His view is that it is for the Scottish courts rather than the European Court of Justice to determine whether minimum unit pricing (MUP) of alcohol best meets the Government’s intentions to tackle alcohol harm. His question is whether MUP achieves health goals other price mechanisms do not. This has already been examined by the Scottish Parliament and Scottish courts which found the answer to be "yes”.

Why are health groups keen on MUP? There was an alarming rise in alcohol deaths in Scotland from the mid 1990s. Over the subsequent decade, these more than doubled while liver disease rates rose four fold. Things were changing rapidly for the worse.

Attempting to control alcohol harm by the regulation of pubs, the mainstay approach for more than a century, was no longer working. A licensing system based on the notion of experienced staff controlling customers wasn’t working when drinking had become a predominately home-based activity. More than half of all alcohol was drunk in pubs 20 years ago; with current trends it will soon be less than one quarter.

Action was needed to temper the effects of a supermarket-led “pile high and sell cheap” approach and it was evident from clinics and police cells that much of the harm came from the cheapest products, namely white ciders and vodkas. These were not the products the drinks industry publicised as evidence of their international success. Yet these were the drinks front-line workers heard about on a daily basis.

Evidence from more regulated markets in North America and Scandinavia, which had not experienced the increase in harm seen in Scotland, convinced Scottish practitioners that action on the cheapest alcohol was the priority, a view since supported by the World Health Organisation, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and each credible organisation that has investigated the issue.

After the MUP Bill was passed unopposed in Holyrood in 2012, it was immediately challenged by a few trade organisations led by the SWA which, in my view, represented the vodka interests of its most powerful members. By this time vodka was outselling whisky in Scotland by 40 per cent and was a crucial product for the spirits conglomerates.

Having lost the scientific and political battle, the SWA launched a legal challenge and its resources mean this has been protracted. The Court of Session made a clear judgment in 2013 that MUP was likely to be highly effective in improving health and was a proportionate and legal measure. MUP has a substantial effect on the cheapest alcohol and is a much more effective and targeted measure than general alcohol duty increases. The price of cheap cider in supermarkets is a much higher priority than the price of a pint of beer in a pub.

We’ve seen a welcome fall in Scottish alcohol deaths from more than 1,500 a year in 2006 to around 1,100 a year at present, though there have been small increases in the past two years. There have been many improvements in access to help for alcohol problems, restrictions in marketing, and some licensing boards, such as Dundee's, have taken significant steps to tackle over provison. But a major contributor to the fall in deaths is likely to have been due to prevailing economic factors with falling incomes and the intriguing increase in the price of low-cost drinks. The own-brand vodka that cost under £7 in 2006 is now more than £10 a bottle. The price of rock-bottom white ciders has risen and three-litres-for-the price-of-two offers are no more. We don’t know why this has happened. Supermarkets are under no obligation to explain themselves; they generally don’t and we can’t count on it continuing. While implementing price changes through law takes years, retailers could have £7 bottles of spirits back on the shelves tomorrow if it suited them.

So there is a need for an effective price-control mechanism that can be relied on to work in all economic circumstances. Let’s get a minimum unit price of 50p into effect, evaluate the effectiveness and inform the many other countries watching this with interest. The chances are high that this will improve the lot of many Scots affected by their own or others' drinking.

Dr Rice is chairman of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems.

Don't let legal delays dilute minimum unit price plan for alcohol

On the face of it, it seems like a typical piece of European fudge. Three years after the Scottish government first announced its intention to introduce minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol and the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) launched a legal challenge, Europe’s highest court has produced a ruling that has allowed both sides to claim victory.

Yves Bot, advocate-general of the European Court of Justice, has decreed that an EU member state may introduce such a policy only if it demonstrates more advantages or fewer disadvantages than other alternatives.

It was, he said, difficult to justify minimum pricing as it appeared “less consistent and effective” than increasing taxes and “may even be perceived as being discriminatory”.

The court in Luxembourg is expected to uphold the ruling within the next six months and it is then likely to wind its interminable way — like a latter-day case of Dickens’s Jarndyce and Jarndyce — back to the Court of Session in Scotland, which initially dismissed the SWA’s claims back in 2012.

It’s enough to drive you to drink — or, in the case of the Euro lawyers who have spent the past three years on this gravy boat, vintage Krug.

Nicola Sturgeon, who called time on cheap booze by setting the minimum unit price at 50p during her stint as health minister, has vowed to vigorously pursue minimum pricing to reduce alcohol-related deaths and ill health. This is a flagship policy for the Scottish government and, unlike booze, she is determined it will not be watered down.

The SWA maintains that the ruling backs its position that minimum pricing is illegal when there are less trade restrictive measures available to use.

There are plenty of reasons to be wary of Sturgeon’s stance. All Scottish governments since the birth of the parliament have had a tendency to meddle in the private lives of the electorate, but the SNP administration has taken this to a new level.

The drinks industry has argued that the policy penalises responsible drinkers. Libertarians argue that it contradicts John Stuart Mill’s harm principle which maintains that the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community against his will is to prevent harm to others.

Then there is the risk of mission creep. The economic growth of the past 50 years has been predicated on free trade and an end to restrictive practices. If the government gets its way on this, can we expect minimum pricing on everything from chocolate to cheese?

The ruling overlooks two significant factors. The big achievement of the drinks industry over the past 30 years has been the presentation of alcohol as just another commodity to be bought alongside the weekly groceries.

However, alcohol is no ordinary commodity. It has an effect on the brain to the extent that, above a certain level, choice is no longer free. It is already subject to restrictions in terms of where, when and by whom it can be purchased.

The suggestion that taxation would be a more effective tool for controlling price fails to recognise the way in which problem drinkers imbibe. Additional taxation would have a disproportionate effect on the most expensive products while barely touching the cheapest booze. It is possible to buy three litres of the most lethal white cider for just over £4.00. Pocket money prices. Slap on an additional 20p tax and you are still below a fiver a bottle. Raise the MUP to 50p, however, and the price rises to more than £11.

The cheapest alcohol is bought by the heaviest drinkers across all income groups. Well-off drinkers drink cheap vodka and cider in an effort to get the biggest bang for their buck. It’s not the poorest but the problem drinkers who would be affected.

Research undertaken in Sweden, where alcohol is heavily regulated, suggests that tackling the price of the cheapest alcohol has the greatest effect. The changes at the bottom end of the market that are produced by minimum pricing have bigger effects on reducing consumption than either across-the-board changes or changes at the top of the market.

There is no denying the cost to society of the current regime. The statistics are harrowing. Belford hospital in Fort William reported that 80% of its accident and emergency department admissions on a Saturday evening were alcohol-related. A quarter of admissions to intensive care units in Scotland are a consequence of alcohol abuse.

Sheffield University, which is something of a centre of excellence on the economics of alcohol, has calculated that, with a MUP of 50p, hospital admissions in Scotland would drop by 8,400 a year and alcohol-related crimes would decrease by 5,300 a year.

Its research finds that absenteeism would fall by 51,200 days a year and unemployment due to alcohol would drop by 2,000. Overall consumer spending would increase and tax receipts would rise by more than £10m.

As it is, doctors across many branches of medicine have seen alcohol-related presentations rise exponentially while the funds to tackle them have not. It’s all very well to base an argument on Stuart Mill’s harm principle but, unless you give clinicians the resources to manage the subsequent problems, the result is not freedom but misery.

Scotland has long had a reputation for the worst social ills. In recent years, violent crime, football hooliganism and vandalism have all fallen. Life expectancy is up and drug addiction among the under-40s has dropped. We are at a stage in our history where we can potentially shake off the reputation of the past. However, unless we tackle the alcohol problem, it’s hard to see how progress will be made.

What is so depressing is that whisky is a premium product. It is synonymous with Scotland in the eyes of the world. The manufacturers of Scotch have jealously guarded it, and its definition is protected by law.

It seems bizarre, then, that they should align themselves with the makers of mass-produced cheap ciders, alcopops and spirits. It is impossible to imagine the grand champagne houses acting in a similar way.

Other alcohol producers have backed MUP. It is hard to believe that the SWA has Scotland’s best interests at heart.

MUP is not a panacea. Governments need to think long and hard before restricting personal freedoms and the medical profession must guard against the knee-jerk response of ban it, tax it or pan it.

Yet MUP, like the equally controversial smoking ban, is a reasonably simple and straightforward mechanism. There is good evidence for its efficacy. The law may be an ass in this instance but we’d be MUPpets not to fight on.

 

72% of alcohol sales'in off licences rather than pubs'

The Scottish Government is considering resurrecting its "social responsibility" tax on alcohol retailers as more Scots abandon pubs in favour of off licences.

Off licences now account for nearly three-quarters of alcohol sales in Scotland, compared with less than half 20 years ago, according to figures revealed by former justice secretary Kenny MacAskill at Holyrood.

He said: "Given the significant shifts in drinking patterns from the on to the off trade, with 72% now provided by the off licence trade as opposed to 49% in 1994, will the Scottish Government ensure that actions target where the major source of the problem of abuse of alcohol lies?"

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the evidence Mr MacAskill has provided is "significant".

He added: "The Scottish Government position has always been that we will not introduce the social responsibility levy during the lifetime of the public health supplement, and until the economic circumstances are correct.

"The public health subsidy has now concluded, and the Government will consider in due course if there is a case to apply a social responsibility levy for which legislative provision currently exists.

"I can assure him that evidence that he has cited today and the points that are raised as a consequence will be part of the Government's consideration of how to take forward this issue."

Provisions to allow the introduction of a social responsibility levy were approved in the Alcohol (Scotland) Bill 2010, which also restricted "irresponsible" drinks promotions and advertising around premises, and set a requirement for age verification.

The tax was designed to ensure retailers and licensed premises, such as nightclubs, contribute to the wider cost of their activities to the community.

However, its implementation was temporarily shelved with the introduction of the public health supplement in 2012, a short-term tax on large shops selling alcohol and tobacco which ended in 2014.

The social responsibility levy was unpopular with some business and retail groups when it was first unveiled, with the Federation of Small Businesses warning its members would be hit harder than supermarkets and nightclubs, and the Wine and Spirit Trade Association warning it would hit Scottish consumers and businesses "while doing little to address the root causes of alcohol misuse".

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: "Given that off-sales already pay commercial rates and that a significant duty is levied on all alcohol sales, the case for placing yet more taxation on this is very thin indeed.

"It is unreasonable to imply that simply by selling alcohol these businesses are responsible for Scotland's corrosive and complex relationship with drink.

"We are willing to support measures that change the behaviour and culture which contribute to that relationship, but that can't be done simply by inventing yet another tax."
 

Lowering Scotland's drink-driving limit 'has had virtually no impact impact on number of offences'

The introduction of a lower drink-drive limit in Scotland has had virtually no impact on the rates of offending, police statistics have revealed.

Police Scotland figures for the first three months of this year show that officers recorded 1,337 offences relating to drink and drug driving – only a slight reduction in the 1,388 noted in the same period last year, before the lower limit was introduced.

The new law, which came into force in December, reduced the legal alcohol limit for Scottish motorists from 80mg to 50mg in every 100ml of blood. Drivers were warned that having “no alcohol at all” is the only way to ensure they stay within the limit – and to avoid planning car journeys for the morning after a night drinking.

Responding to the new figures, the Scottish Government said the lack of a sudden spike in drink-drive offences proved that people’s behaviour had changed. Ministers were previously told that police expected to catch around a third more drink-drivers if the public did not adjust their drinking levels to fit the new rules.

However, critics of the new law have said it merely penalises sensible drinkers and is harming Scotland’s pub and restaurant industry, as many people are now wary of touching alcohol at all. In April, the Bank of Scotland’s chief economist Donald MacRae said the country’s hospitality industry was suffering due to a “changing pattern of spending” by customers as a result of the lower limit.

Paul Waterson, chief executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said the new figures proved that “people will adhere to the law”, but that pubs would continue to suffer until penalties for drivers with low levels of alcohol in their blood were reduced. “People just aren’t coming into pubs any more – and it’s all to do with them being frightened by these penalties,” he said. At present, a driver with only residual alcohol in their bloodstream can still face a criminal record.

Superintendent Fraser Candlish, of Police Scotland’s road policing division, said the new limit had proved to be a “good deterrent” in stopping people drink-driving. But he added: “It is still unacceptable that a minority chose to ignore all the advice and warnings and get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. They are not just risking their lives but also those of other road users and pedestrians.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “It is extremely encouraging to see that the number of drink driving offences fell in the first quarter since the lower limit came into force in Scotland. These statistics show that the new lower limit has helped to make our roads safer while bringing Scotland into line with almost every other country in Europe.

“We are determined to end the tragedy of deaths caused by drink driving, and if this new law saves one life, then it will be a success. The aim of the lower drink drive limit has always been to result in less drink driving, not more people convicted. Alcohol at any level impairs driving, which is why our message is if you’re driving, the best approach is none.”
 

Shock as BABIES are among7000 children rushed to A&E due to alcohol-related illness

BABIES were among nearly 7000 children rushed to A&E in Scotland because of alcohol-related illness in the last five years, the Sunday Mail can reveal.

We obtained figures which show that 6825 under-18s made ill by booze have been seen at casualty departments since 2010.

And 42 of them were just a year old or younger.

In one NHS area, a child less than a year old was treated for mental and behavioural disorders caused by withdrawal from alcohol.

And another tot was admitted to hospital with mental and behavioural disorders caused by acute intoxication.

The figures also reveal cases of kids accidentally poisoned by alcohol, and
of newborn and unborn children affected by their mothers’ drinking.

Scottish Labour equality spokeswoman Jenny Marra said the figures laid bare Scotland’s problems with alcohol. She added: “It’s clear even young people and
children are damaging their health and safety with alcohol misuse.

“With the Scottish Government’s plan for a minimum price on alcohol tied up in the courts, we need to look again at alternative measures that will reduce high levels of harmful drinking and set a better example to young people and children.”

The Scottish Government said any case of a child made ill by alcohol was extremely worrying but drinking by 13 to 15-year-olds was at its lowest level since 1990.

They said they had worked to crack down on alcohol sales to children and improve education and guidance for schools, parents and carers.
 

Scientists discover specific brain cells responsible for alcoholism

Although alcoholism is a common disease that affects millions of people worldwide, the underlying causes have not been fully understood – until now. Scientists say they've discovered the brain cells responsible for inciting alcohol cravings.

A study published in the journal Neuroscience by researchers at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine has found that the consumption of alcohol alters the function and structure of neurons in the dorsomedial striatum. This part of the brain is known to be important in goal-driven behaviors.

The researchers' key finding lies in what are known as medium spiny neurons – the main type of cell in the striatum. Using an animal model, the scientists determined that alcohol changes the physical structure of those neurons.

Each medium spiny neuron contains one of two types of dopamine receptors: D1 or D2. Therefore, they are classed as either D1 or D2 neurons.

The D1 neurons become much more excitable following the consumption of large amounts of alcohol.

"If these neurons are excited, you will want to drink alcohol. You'll have a craving," Dr. Jun Wang, lead author and an assistant professor in neuroscience and experimental therapeutics, said in a press release. 

This creates a cycle – drinking causes easier activation of the D1 neurons, which leads to more drinking.

As the neurons become more sensitive, they require less stimulation to become activated – meaning that just one sip of wine can trigger a craving for an entire bottle.

The alcohol-consuming animal models showed an increased preference to drink large quantities of alcohol. However, when they were given a drug to at least partially block the D1 receptor, they showed a much lessened desire to drink alcohol.

Meanwhile, a drug that inhibited the D2 dopamine receptors had no effect – thereby supporting the finding that D1 neurons are the ones responsible for alcohol cravings.

“If we suppress this [D1] activity, we’re able to suppress alcohol consumption,” Wang said. “This is the major finding. Perhaps in the future, researchers can use these findings to develop a specific treatment targeting these neurons.”

Indeed, Wang and his team hope the finding can one day help those battling addictions.

“My ultimate goal is to understand how the addicted brain works,” Wang said. “And once we do, one day, we’ll be able to suppress the craving for another round of drinks and ultimately, stop the cycle of alcoholism."

The study was co-authored with researchers from the University of California San Francisco, and supported by a grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

 

Moving towards privatization of alcohol sales would be a mistake for Quebec

The popular bias that public is less effective than private dies hard. The questionable quality of the arguments in support of the recent recommendations of former Liberal minister Lucienne Robillard provides another illustration of that prejudice.

Primarily basing her argument on figures showing that the Société des alcools du Québec’s administrative costs are high in relation to those in other provinces, Robillard recommended last week the introduction of a mixed public-private system for liquor sales in Quebec.

However, as former SAQ CEO Gaétan Frigon and others have explained in the last few days, there is no parallel between the SAQ’s operating costs and the LCBO’s, for example. The LCBO sells more lucrative hard liquor and beer, while the SAQ sells relatively more wine, which is more labour intensive to market. And by the way, the SAQ’s operating costs are now 18.8 per cent, and not the 21 per cent quoted by Robillard. This improvement is not unexpected; the financial targets set each year for the corporation by the government are almost always exceeded.

British Columbia introduced a mixed system in 2002 in which private businesses compete with branches of the government liquor store. A study by the Consumers’ Association of Canada concluded that the privatization of liquor sales has forced B.C. consumers to pay millions of dollars more for beer, wine and hard liquor. The prices of 43 beer, wine and spirits products were higher at B.C.’s private liquor stores. In fact, prices in private stores were on average 10 to 15 per cent higher, according to a report from the Center for Addictions Research of British Columbia. The study also demonstrated that public stores had greater product selection. A recent B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union “Shop Public” campaign maintains that public stores have a tradition of better prices, better selection, knowledgeable staff and social responsibility.

In Ontario, two committees in recent years have looked at whether the current system in that province should be changed. The chief economist of the TD Bank, Don Drummond (in 2012), and the bank’s former president Ed Clark (in 2014) each concluded that the public monopoly on wine and spirits sales should be maintained. The Drummond Commission even proposed public store expansion to enhance profits while continuing to promote socially responsible consumption.

Privatization also means more sales to minors or intoxicated people, more stores and greater alcohol consumption rates. Considering such public health and safety issues, 14 Canadian authors recommended in a 2013 paper from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health to “maintain government monopolies by preventing further privatization of alcohol sales channels and uphold a strong social responsibility mandate.”

As president of SAQ’s technical and professional staff union, I sincerely believe that it is my duty to inform the public of a reality that is different from the one described by some supporters of privatization. At the SAQ, the energy of everyone converges to develop a sense of pride in a high-performance environment where innovation and creativity are valued and at the heart of our daily work.

The innovations introduced in recent years are many, and have been continuous. They range from online sales, to taste tags and a soon to come, brand new personalized in-store experience for our customers. From an environmental perspective, the SAQ has been a leader in removing plastic bags and actively contributes to the development of promising new markets for recycled glass.

The public SAQ is efficient, relevant and can still improve. I work there and I’m proud of it.

Sandrine Thériault is president of the Union of Technical and Professional staff of the SAQ (SPTP-SAQ-CSN), which has nearly 700 members and is affiliated with the Federation of Professionals (CSN).
 

Working long hours may lead to alcohol abuse

New research suggests that people who work long hours can increase risk of adverse health problems.

Researchers found that working more than 48 hours per week are more likely to engage in risky alcohol consumption than those who work standard week. They also have an increased risk of liver diseases, cancer, stroke, coronary heart disease and mental disorders.

Risky alcohol consumption is considered as more than 14 drinks per week for women and more than 21 drinks per week for men.

"The workplace is an important setting for the prevention of alcohol misuse, because more than half of the adult population are employed," researchers wrote in the study. "Further research is needed to assess whether preventive interventions against risky alcohol use could benefit from information on working hours."

For the study, researchers collected and analyzed data from nearly 333,700 people in 14 countries.

They found that longer working hours increased the likelihood of higher alcohol use by 11 percent. A prospective analysis found a similar increase in risk of 12 percent for onset of risky alcohol use in more than 100,600 people from nine countries.

Individual participant data from 18 prospective studies showed that those who worked 49 to 54 hours and 55 hours per week or more were found to have an increased risk of 13 and 12 percent respectively of risky alcohol consumption compared with those who worked 35 to 40 hours per week.

The findings are detailed in the journal BMJ.
 

Cheap drink at Westminster 'killed Charles Kennedy'

Charles Kennedy’s partner has blamed Westminster’s drinking culture for contributing to the death of the former Liberal Democrat leader at 55.

Speaking publicly for the first time, three months after she found his body at his Highland croft, Carole Macdonald claimed that the atmosphere in the Commons “normalised” excessive drinking.

“You are in an environment, often late at night, where drink is available, cheap, sociable and you don’t have to drive,” she said. “All the constraints that might stop you aren’t there. It is there and it is being normalised within your life. I don’t think it caused it but I’m sure it contributed to it. I suppose it must have contributed quite a lot.”

Mr Kennedy’s family said in July that his unexpected death was a consequence of his battle with alcoholism.

The former MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, who led his party between 1999 and 2006, died of a haemorrhage. His health had deteriorated in the week before his death and he had booked an appointment with his doctor, expecting to be admitted to Belford Hospital in Fort William.

Mr Kennedy started a relationship with Ms Macdonald after separating from his wife. She said: “I spoke to him on the Sunday night before he died. He was not at all fine. He was going to the Belford the following morning.

“I knew he wasn’t well. I knew he needed help and he needed to get things stabilised but I had no idea it could have that devastating effect and neither did he.”

Ms MacDonald drove north expecting to take him to hospital, but by the time she arrived he was already dead.

She was infuriated by suggestions that Mr Kennedy died lonely and defeated after losing his seat. “They made out that Charlie was this tortured individual and that angered me. He wasn’t tormented. He was very considerate, gentle and non-confrontational. What you saw in public was the way he was in private.”

On September 25, senior figures from across the political spectrum will take part in a debate on membership of the European Union at Glasgow University Union in honour of Mr Kennedy. They include the former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell, the former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling and the former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell, a close friend of Mr Kennedy.

Alcohol licence stripped from shop owner after illicit goods found on shelves

A shop which stocked its shelves with illicit alcohol has had its licence revoked.

The owner of Palmerston Food Centre in Walthamstow faced the council’s licensing committee on Monday after being caught with thousands of items with no duty paid on them.

In November 2014, the shop in Palmerston Road was visited by officers from Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and Trading Standards, along with representatives from the International Federation of Spirits Producers (IFSP).

Bottles on display were discovered to be showing counterfeit duty stamps, including 23 bottles of High Commissioner whisky and five bottles of Glen’s Vodka.

Other counterfeit items on the premises included 92 bottles of counterfeit Italian wine, eight more bottles of whisky and 4470 illicit cigarettes.

According to officers, the total duty avoided on the goods was £2044.00.

Company director, Mr Ismail Sarl of Class Supermarket Ltd, was interviewed by police in December.

During his interview he claimed that some of the items had been left by the previous owner, and that others were paid for in various cash and carry stores.

He also admitted to buying booze from an industrial unit in Barking.

Foreign cigarettes were bought from a Ukranian van driver, according to the owner, who said he sold them to foreign residents who asked for them.

Sarl of Boundary Road in Walthamstow also said the reason for buying them was because the Palmerston Road bridge closure had badly affected his business and he needed to boost his takings.

On May 15 Mr Sarl attened Thames Magistrates Court where he admitted buying counterfeit goods.

He was made to pay a total of £378 in fines and court costs. The company was made to pay £879.

A statement from HMRC said: “Mr Sarl purchased cheap alcohol from a trader whose business practice was questionable and suspicious.

“He conducted no checks on the alcohol purchased.

“Mr Sarl continued his deceitful behaviour by purchasing non UK duty paid wine and foreign cigarettes from untraceable lorry drivers.”

The owner has 21 days to appeal the decision.

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