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Million illegal cigarettes worth £200k seized by Trading Standards in Wales

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A MILLION illegal cigarettes with a street value of more than £200,000 have been seized in Wales as part of a major crackdown on the country’s illegal tobacco trade. 

The milestone was hit by Welsh Trading Standards Teams taking part in Operation CeCe, an ongoing National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with Her Majesties Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to tackle illegal tobacco.

They say the haul seized during raids carried out across Wales, which includes 1,039,046 cigarettes and 3,377.6 pouches of hand-rolling tobacco, has a total street value of £286,782.30 – money that would otherwise have been in the pockets of criminal gangs.

Many of the cigarettes seized would have ended up in the hands of children and young people in Wales’ poorest communities which are targeted by criminals selling illegal tobacco. Evidence has been found of illegal tobacco supplies in 17 out of 22 local authority areas in Wales and seizures have taken place in 12 areas so far.

Helen Picton, Chair of Trading Standards Wales, said: “The trade in illegal tobacco creates a cheap source for tobacco for children and young people. It also undermines all of the good work being done to stop people smoking and the illegal tobacco trade more often than not has strong links to criminal activity.”

In Wales, 8% of 15 and 16-year-olds still smoke on a regular basis – a figure that has not fallen since 2013. Around 6,000 children in Wales take up smoking every year and three out of four of those children will go on to be long-term smokers.
Smoking is an addiction that begins in childhood, a recent ASH Wales survey found that 76% of smokers in Wales tried their first cigarette before the age of 18.

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Suzanne Cass, CEO of ASH Wales, said: “For many children, buying their first pack of illegal cigarettes will be the start of a lifelong addiction that will destroy their health, lead them into poverty and eventually kill them. 

“Stamping out this deadly trade is an essential part of reducing Wales’ smoking prevalence which currently stands at 18% of the adult population and leads to more than 5,000 deaths every year.

“We welcome any action that is taken to remove illegal tobacco from our communities and hope that this will continue to form part of any strategy to address Wales’ health inequalities.”

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Since the launch of the crackdown in January 2021 Trading Standards and HMRC have been gathering intelligence on criminal tobacco gangs and are planning more raids across Wales in the next few months. 

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“We need to keep tobacco out of the hands of children, cheap tobacco products make it easier for children to start smoking, as it is sold at pocket money prices by criminals who don’t care about age-restriction laws,” said Helen Picton.

Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, said: “The trade in illegal tobacco harms local communities and affects honest businesses operating within the law. The National Trading Standards initiative in partnership with HRMC is playing a significant role in disrupting this illicit trade and is helping to take illegal tobacco products off the streets.”

Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing Lynne Neagle said: “We are committed to stamping out the sale and use of illegal tobacco. It’s availability makes it easier for children to start smoking, harder for those who want to stop smoking and brings criminality into local communities.

“Operation CeCe has led to the biggest crackdown on illegal tobacco in Wales since devolution. We support the on-going work of HMRC and trading standards Wales. We will shortly be launching an illegal tobacco campaign to raise public awareness and encourage reporting of illegal tobacco.” 

(Lead image: Torfaen Council)

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Port Talbot

Police launch appeal to find missing disabled woman

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South Wales Police have launched an appeal to find missing Waunarlwydd woman, Kelly Randell.

45 year-old Kelly was last seen in Port Talbot on Tuesday 3 May.

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A wheelchair user with one leg, Kelly is described as being around 5ft of medium build with brown hair which is tied up – possibly in a bun.

She was last seen wearing black jeans and a black coat.

She has links to both Swansea and Port Talbot.

South Wales Police are appealing for anyone who may have seen Kelly, or who has information which will help them to find her, to contact them online or by calling 101 quoting occurrence number 2200149152.

(Lead image: Family photo / South Wales Police)

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Ammanford

Man who filmed rape on Ammanford victim’s phone changes plea mid trial

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A man who filmed himself raping an Ammanford woman on his victim’s phone has changed his plea to guilty midway through his trial.

Cameron Hassan, aged 31, of no fixed abode, attacked the woman, raping her as she slept on 21 August 2021.

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Hassan had been on trial at Swansea Crown Court after denying any wrongdoing. However, after the jury was shown the video of the attack and hearing the victim was going to give evidence yesterday (Tuesday, 10 May), Hassan changed his plea to guilty.

Investigating Officer DC Sophie Lambert from Dyfed Powys Police said the victim had shown great strength and determination throughout the investigation.

“I must commend her tremendous courage in coming forward and the tenacity shown throughout the investigation,” she said.

“We hope this case demonstrates that Dyfed-Powys Police acts on serious allegations such as rape and sexual assault with officers working tirelessly to secure justice for victims.

“If you are suffering because of similar abuse, please contact the police, or if you would rather speak to someone in confidence, New Pathways are an independent charity that will support you through every step of the investigation.”

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New Pathways can be contacted at 01685 379 310 or email enquiries@newpathways.org.uk

(Lead image: Google Maps)

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Dyfed Powys Police

Man banned from driving for 12 months for fishing offence

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A man from Merthyr Tydfil who travelled to the River Loughor, near Llanelli to fish using a barbaric and illegal method, has been banned from driving for 12 months as part of his sentence.

Vu Quang Tien pleaded guilty to an illegal fishing charge and also to a charge of obstruction of a Natural Resources Wales (NRW) Fisheries Enforcement Officer on 26 April at Swansea Magistrates Court.

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Mr Tien and two other anglers were witnessed by NRW Fisheries Enforcement Officers deliberately using the illegal foul hooking method of fishing – also known as snatching – at the river Loughor on 15 August 2021. NRW officers attended the site after several reports of illegal fishing were made to NRW’s 24/7 incident call centre by concerned members of the community.

When approached and questioned by NRW officers, Mr Tien and his accomplices showed significant hostility and reluctance to share identification documents which eventually had to be extracted by use of reasonable force.

All of Mr Tien’s fishing tackle and fish, along with his associates’ fishing tackle was seized by NRW Officers at the time of the incident. The district judge on the day at Swansea Magistrates Court gave permission to NRW to confiscate these items permanently from each of them.

The District Judge disqualified Mr Tien from driving for 12 months due to seriousness of the incident, and the premeditated and deliberate action of travelling such a distance to commit the offence.

He was also ordered to pay a total of £2,334 in fines, NRW costs and a victim surcharge.

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Mark Thomas, Fisheries Enforcement Officer for NRW, said: “We would like to again thank Dyfed Powys Police, the local communities and also the law-abiding anglers in the area for their continued support in reporting these illegal fishing activities.

“Foul hooking is a truly barbaric form of fishing carried out by a small minority of anglers in Wales, who have no regard for fish welfare.

“NRW and the Police take these incidents seriously as do the courts.

“Hopefully, the small minority of anglers who may in future, think of using any illegal fishing methods will take heed of the heavy fines and driving ban in this case issued by the courts.”

(Lead image: Natural Resources Wales)

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