It looks as though sniffer dogs are being used more and more in the fight against illegal tobacco and cigarettes. It used to be that sniffer dogs were associated with airports and drug busts but in recent times, the use of sniffer dogs in investigation and security work is increasing all the time. If you have been at a large scale football match in recent times, there have been plenty of occasions where sniffer dogs have patrolled fans outside of the stadium. It may be to search for drugs but there is also a lot to be said for these dogs being used to sniff out the flares and pyrotechnics which are becoming a blight on modern football. The fact that there are more employment opportunities for sniffer dogs will be pleasing to a lot of people, but the folk targeted by these dogs may not be as happy to see them.
These dogs have been used extensively by Trading Standards officers in Newcastle of late. This is part of a crackdown on illegal cigarettes in the city and officers have seized thousands of these cigarettes in recent times. The project, names Operation Beagle, has been led by Newcastle City Council and there have been two specially trained dogs involved with the Trading Standards team. The two dogs, who are English Springer Spaniels called Scamp and Yo-Yo, may sound cute but they have definitely caused a great deal of trouble and outrage for many retailers and traders who have been operating on the wrong side of the law. These shop owners found their store raided with a number of goods being bagged up and taken away as evidence. There will now be prosecutions taking place following these raids.
It is not as if the dogs are taken into random shops and told to start sniffing around. A lot of work is spent on gathering intelligence and the raids were the culmination of a considerable amount of work. There is a great deal of intelligence gathering involved with this style of project and it would be fair to say that the investigators were pretty certain that these stores were selling illegal cigarettes. The problem is in finding the items.
Shopkeepers know that selling these styles of goods is illegal and this means that they will often have their illegal cigarettes and tobacco hidden away. They will not be in full view but if certain customers come in and ask for the product in the right way, the shopkeeper will gladly head off and return with the illicit product. The customer receives the product at a lower price and the trader makes more of a profit, so there are two winners in this scenario but of course, there are plenty of losers. Money is being diverted away from the government and depending on the nature of the cigarettes and tobacco products; the customer could find themselves facing a health risk. This is why there are a number of reasons why it is important to clamp down on the level of illegal and fake cigarette and tobacco products being sold across the country.
During one search a hoard of illegal cigarettes had been found stuffed into a woman’s handbag and in another store, an inspector found a sophisticated hiding spot beside a kitchen unit. There were some hard to see but notable markings on the wall and when the panel was removed, a stash of tobacco was found.
Paul Leighton represents the Trading Standards team and he said that these raids were a deterrent against other people acting in the same manner. He said; “What we are doing is sending a message to people who choose to sell illicit tobacco. We will use all techniques at our disposal. We would not be able to find half the stuff without the detection dogs. It makes it so much easier and so much quicker to find where it is being hidden.”
Councillor Nick Kemp also made sure he got some media coverage by saying; “Today’s seizures are another victory in our ongoing campaign. Whilst all tobacco is harmful, counterfeit cigarettes often contain banned ingredients that can present additional health risks to our residents. We will not tolerate the sale of counterfeit tobacco, and will use all powers available to us, including the use of sniffer dogs, to prevent this occurring within Newcastle upon Tyne.”
Modern day retailers and shopkeepers are under considerable pressure, but they have to remember that laws are in place for many reasons. Any shopkeeper found to be working in this manner will be more likely to face trial and this is where the services of an experienced and qualified defence solicitor will be very important.
Andrew Reilly is a freelance writer with a focus on news stories and consumer interest articles. He has been writing professionally for 9 years but has been writing for as long as he can care to remember. When Andrew isn’t sat behind a laptop or researching a story, he will be found watching a gig or a game of football.