By Dave GooderhamCOMMUNITY leaders have branded a council's decision to allow a convicted criminal to open a sex shop in the heart of a historic town "absolutely disgusting".

By Dave Gooderham

COMMUNITY leaders have branded a council's decision to allow a convicted criminal to open a sex shop in the heart of a historic town "absolutely disgusting".

A three-man licensing sub-committee of St Edmundsbury Borough Council gave the controversial plan the go-ahead, despite concerns from residents, councillors and senior police officers.

The decision paves the way for Vincent Reeve to convert his Secrets store in St John's Street, Bury St Edmunds, into a sex shop selling hardcore videos and DVDs.

The sub-committee opted to approve the plan despite serious concerns from Suffolk police over a previous custodial sentence served by 42-year-old Mr Reeve nine years ago for a "dishonesty offence involving the use of violence".

Independent borough councillor David Nettleton, who attended Thursday's meeting, said: "I am utterly disappointed that the three members of the sub-committee failed to take the police's advice.

"I am not trying to stamp out sex in the town, but we should support the local constabulary and the fact my colleagues have overridden them is absolutely disgusting."

Although the store opened in St John's Street in December 2000, the terms of the lease prevented Mr Reeve from operating it as a licensed sex shop.

He said: "I am delighted. I was quietly confident, but you never can tell. The decision means I can now improve my range and increase my amount of stock.

"For me, opening a fully licensed sex shop just seemed a natural step. Any business just wants to progress and this gives me scope to do this."

The license means Mr Reeve can now sell R18 videos and DVDs and he revealed that new stock would be arriving in the next few weeks.

The council heard concerns from Suffolk police over a previous conviction for Mr Reeve and from residents about the affect a sex shop might have on the character of the historic street.

A Suffolk police spokesman said: "With regards to the application for a sex shop licence, the police view is that the applicant would not be a suitable person to hold a licence.

"Whilst accepting that the conviction was in 1996, the offence itself was a serious dishonesty offence involving the use of violence, reflected in the sentence and the actual time served in custody."

But Mr Reeve, who lives in Mildenhall, said: "I was disappointed with what the police said, but at the end of the day they were only doing their job.

"I don't see the point in bringing up my past time and time again and I think it would have been unfair if the council had held it against me."

Terry Buckle, chairman of the licensing and regulatory sub-committee, defended its decision and claimed it would give the council greater control over what was sold in the shop.

"Although we respected the view of the police, the committee felt there had to be a very strong case why we should deprive this man of his livelihood," he added.