Tesco supermarket branch faces licensing probe but board refuses to disclose details

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Lerwick’s Tesco store faced a top-secret licensing review this week after coming under the spotlight as part of a test-purchasing operation.

The supermarket giant was one of three retailers scrutinised during Tuesday’s area licensing board which met behind closed doors at the town hall.

The hearings took place as the shutters came down on attempts to find details of the meeting. But The Shetland Times has learned Tesco, and another retailer, has been told no further action is required. A third outlet, however, has been handed a written warn­ing.

Tesco manager Paul Clelland refused to speak on the record yesterday.

The items were held in private after Northern Constabulary re­quested the identity of the prem­ises be kept secret.

Shetland Islands Council later released a press statement on the matter explaining its stance.

As a consequence the only item of Tuesday’s meeting which was open to the public concerned an extension of licensing hours for the North Unst Public Hall because of the Norwick Up-Helly-A’.

The three businesses were first accused of selling alcohol to children last year following a test purchasing operation.

The secrecy surrounding the event contrasts sharply with last month’s meeting when troubled fast food takeaway Turkish Delight was denied its late hours licence fol­lowing well-publicised breaches in food hygiene regulations. That hearing was held in public, with members of the press in attendance.

Board chairman George Smith said the latest details were handed to the town hall on the understanding they were not made public.

Mr Smith said: “In simple terms the information that was in front of the board – some of that we did not have permission to put in the public domain.

“Normally the board and the licensing committee would strive to hear as much as it can in public, but on this occasion we had information that we didn’t have permission [to make public] and we weren’t able to hold it in public.

“But I agree … As much as possible we should be trying to hold our meetings in public.”

Mr Smith denied that the board had shown inconsistencies in its deal­ings with licensed outlets, given the very public dressing down Turkish Delight had received.

He said there had been a court appearance relating to the fast food outlet only the previous day. There was nothing discussed
at that meeting, he said, which was not already in the “public domain”.

No other member of the board contacted by The Shetland Times was prepared to discuss the details of the meeting.

Peter Campbell said doing so would risk identifying individuals, although he conceded there were apparent “inconsistencies” given the Turkish Delight hearing.

Mr Campbell said: “It wouldn’t be appropriate in the circumstances in this case because it is exempt information and individuals could be identified. It would be inappropriate at this point.

“There seems to be some dif­ferent position because of one being food and one being alcohol. There is an apparent inconsistency, yes.”

Northern Constabulary’s area com­mander for Shetland, chief inspector Angus MacInnes, said the decision was taken not to release identities of the premises following advice from data protection officers in Inverness.

Test-purchasing powers are used by the police to root out any licensed traders who sell alcohol to minors, adding to alcohol
related problems such as anti-social behaviour, disorder and vandal­ism.

The test-purchasing scheme consists of a fully briefed teenager (under the age of 18) entering licensed premises under controlled conditions.

An SIC statement said: “The Shetland Islands Area Licensing Board held three reviews as a result of failed test purchasing operations conducted by Northern Constabulary in October 2012.

“In two cases the board was satisfied that appropriate policies training and procedures were in place to avoid making sales to underage persons and accordingly the board decided the ground for review was not established.

No further action will be taken in those cases. In the third case the ground for review was established and a written warning was issued.”

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About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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