Store fined for selling youth fireworks

By James MortlockA FIREWORKS store has been fined for selling a rocket to a 15-year-old during an undercover trading standards investigation.Trading standards officers sent the boy into the Warehouse Clearance Superstore in Bury St Edmunds following complaints from the public about children setting off fireworks and concerns raised by the town's MP David Ruffley.

By James Mortlock

A FIREWORKS store has been fined for selling a rocket to a 15-year-old during an undercover trading standards investigation.

Trading standards officers sent the boy into the Warehouse Clearance Superstore in Bury St Edmunds following complaints from the public about children setting off fireworks and concerns raised by the town's MP David Ruffley.

St Edmundsbury magistrates were told yesterday the teenager was asked by inspectors to go into the Anglia Lane shop, run by Cravenwood Ltd, and ask for a rocket firework.


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Anna Venturino, prosecuting for Suffolk County Council's trading standards, said: “The sales assistant sold this to the child without asking for identification.”

The firm admitted a charge of selling the space explorer rocket to a child under the age of 18, contrary to the Fireworks (Safety) Regulations 1997.

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Jim Spencer, presiding magistrate, said the firm would be fined £300, but added the panel believed the incident had been a “one-off mistake by a conscientious member of staff”.

He continued: “We have noted the measures that were put in place swiftly to avoid a similar occurrence there.

“We also note the frank admission, co-operation with the investigation and early guilty plea. There has also been great concern shown by directors of the company.”

Ms Venturino said the inspection in October had found Cravenwood Ltd had lacked a formal monitoring system to deal with underage sales.

She added there had been no formal training for staff dealing with youngsters wanting to buy fireworks other than verbal instructions that if a customer looked under 18, then proof of age should be provided before a sale was made.

But Geoffrey Knape, mitigating, said youngsters who were refused fireworks often became abusive to staff.

“Some stand outside the front of the shop and try to inveigle adults to buy them fireworks. The shop has to try to act on that as well, which is sometimes not easy,” he added.

“The company tries to do its best to make sure staff are not selling fireworks illegally. The member of staff concerned here made a mistake at the end of a very long and difficult day.

“All the staff are instructed not to sell fireworks to children under 18 and if they are in doubt, they should ask for identification. If they don't get that, they shouldn't sell.”

Mr Knape said since the incident the firm had introduced a policy of not selling fireworks to anyone aged under 21 and the company handbook had been updated to include the policy.

Speaking after the hearing, David Baker, assistant county trading standards officer, said: “The law is there to protect children from putting their own lives and others in danger and the consequences of fireworks falling into the hands of teenagers could be tragic.

“This case sends out a strong message that stores must play their part in upholding the law and so help prevent the anti-social and dangerous behaviour associated with teenagers and fireworks.”

james.mortlock@eadt.co.uk

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