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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.”

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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.

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. 

“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.” 

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(Lead image: Torfaen Council)

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South Wales Police

Cash and mobile taken in late night Carmarthen Road assault

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South Wales Police are appealing for information after an alleged assault between 1am and 2am on Carmarthen Road in Swansea on Tuesday 12 October.

A 60 year-old man was reportedly attacked while walking up Carmarthen Road near to the first bus stop after Dyfatty lights.

A woman is alleged to have approached the man, then assaulted him before making off with money and his mobile phone.

Police are appealing for anyone with dashcam footage, anyone who witnessed the incident or who may have more information to contact them online, by emailing SWP101@south-wales.police.uk or by calling 101 quoting reference 2100358315.

(Lead image: Google Maps)

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Ammanford

Llanelli man jailed after assaulting three female officers during arrest

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Three female officers carrying out their duties suffered injuries in an unprovoked attack at the hands of the man they were trying to arrest.

Officers had executed a warrant at the home of John Steven Knight, in Stafford Street, Llanelli, for an unrelated matter. Because the 37-year-old was not home, PC Jaye Blanco-Martin, DC Eleri Owen and colleague who does not want to be named, attended his work in Ammanford.

As officers spoke with Knight he was initially calm and compliant. But then he tried to unlock his phone.

The DC who is not being named said: “In fear that Knight was attempting to delete evidence and frustrate a police investigation I took hold of his left arm to try and seize the phone. 

“Knight’s personality and attitude towards the officers changed instantly.

“He moved his phone to his other hand and immediately started to fight us.  He was pulling away clearly trying to escape.

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“Out of nowhere I felt a sudden push from Knight using his full body weight and as a direct result of this blow and I fell to the ground and hit my head. I immediately felt pain and discomfort to my head and it started throbbing.” 

In the struggle, all three officers ended up on the floor having been shoved and thrown into furniture, walls and a door frame.

Despite Knight’s efforts, the officers were able to arrest him, although they were left with the marks to show they had been in a struggle.

One officer suffered a suspected head injury that required a CT scan, while all three suffered cuts and bruising to various parts of their bodies.

The officer added: “I was incredibly worried for mine and my colleagues’ safety.  Knight was a well built and over 6ft and had the strength to take three officers to the ground with him.”

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Knight appeared at Haverfordwest Magistrates Court on September 29, the day after his arrest, on September 28, when he was sentenced to 12 months in prison.

Following the terrifying ordeal DC Owen said: “During the whole incident I was afraid not just for my safety but also my colleagues.

“That it was only three females with a male who was around 6ft 2ins resisting and assaulting officers made me feel vulnerable.

“I will never forget this, it will be something that stays with me throughout my career. I did not expect to go to work that day to be assaulted. I was just carrying out my duties.”

After a rise in such assaults, Dyfed-Powys Police has linked with Wales’ emergency services to launch the year-long ‘Work With Us, Not Against Us’ campaign.

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It came after more than 4,240 assaults were committed against emergency workers, including police, fire and ambulance crews, in the period April 2019 – November 2020, representing a monthly average increase from 202 in 2019 to 222 in 2020, or 10%.

Temporary Deputy Chief Constable of Dyfed-Powys Police, Emma Ackland, said: “Assaults on police officers continues to increase and this is completely unacceptable. No officer should expect to come under any sort of attack when doing their best to serve the public and potentially save lives.

“It is vitally important that sentences given reflect the harm and upset caused to these victims – professionals doing their work.”

(Lead image: Dyfed Powys Police)

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Neath

Offensive weapon amnesty as new laws make possession of knuckle dusters, throwing stars and zombie knives illegal

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South Wales Police are holding an anonymous offensive weapon surrender scheme giving people an opportunity to hand in weapons to get them off the streets and help prevent serious violence.

The scheme runs from 20th October until 20th December.

Changes to legislation brought about by the Offensive Weapons Act 2019 earlier this year means that it is now an offence to possess certain items such as knuckledusters, throwing stars and zombie knives, even in private.

It also includes an updated definition of flick knives to reflect changes in weapon designs, and the banning of private possession of flick knives and gravity knives. It was already illegal to possess a knife or offensive weapon in public.

South Wales Police say that the introduction of such measures will provide the force with further means to help deter people from becoming involved in knife possession and knife crime.

The police are encouraging the public to surrender weapons as part of their amnesty scheme which will run from 20th October to 20th December.

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Weapons can be handed into police stations where bins will be situated within the front desk at Swansea Central Police Station on Grove Place in the city centre, and at Neath Police Station on Gnoll Park Road.

This scheme is in addition to weapon and knife amnesties that are routinely conducted by police forces.

Detective Chief Inspector Jason Herbert said: “While very few people regularly carry knives in South Wales, we remain committed to tackling knife crime.

“Every weapon surrendered via this scheme will mean one less weapon which has the potential to get into the wrong hands. Please do take advantage of this scheme – doing so could save a life.”

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