By David Spereall, local democracy reporter
A Pudsey shopkeeper has denied claims he repeatedly sold alcohol and cigarettes to children.
West Yorkshire Police alleged Syed Jabbar Ahmed, who runs Pudsey Local, opposite Pudsey Bus Station, was “causing harm” to the area and had sold prohibited items to kids as young as 14.
At a licensing hearing in Leeds Civic Hall on Tuesday, Mr Ahmed dismissed the allegations as “false” and claimed they were motivated by racism and jealousy.
West Yorkshire Trading Standards told the hearing they had 16 recorded complaints from the public about underage sales at the shop across an 18-month stretch.
Police claimed 34-year-old Mr Ahmed used the term ‘Bossman’ as a code name for teenagers wanting to purchase cigarettes and booze, although the authorities acknowledged he’d passed three separate test purchases.
Officers claimed anti-social behaviour by groups of youths hanging around outside the shop was rife, and that many of these teenagers had bought cigarettes and alcohol from Mr Ahmed.
Sergeant Rachel Smith, from West Yorkshire Police, told the hearing the shop’s reputation among some local school pupils was: “If you want to go for alcohol or cigarettes, the place to go is Pudsey Local, where you can get you want.”
Urging a panel of three Leeds councillors to strip the store of its alcohol licence, she added: “It’s only a matter of time before someone comes to serious harm.
“It’s totally unacceptable and the people of Pudsey need protecting. It needs to stop.”
The panel heard from two anonymous residents, who each gave evidence from behind a screen at the hearing.
One said his daughter’s bank statements showed she’d bought alcohol from Pudsey Local.
He said: “My daughter was violently sick after buying alcohol from his shop.
“We became aware, after we had sensible conversations with her afterwards, where she was buying it from and where her friends were buying it from.
“Much the same as what the police have said, this is (seen as) the shop to go to.”
But Mr Ahmed’s representative, licensing consultant David Hopkins, claimed evidence put forward by the authorities was all “indirect” and “based on hearsay”.
He said Mr Ahmed and his father, who also works in the shop, had never been prosecuted or convicted for any offence across many years working in retail.
He also suggested that young people had blamed Pudsey Local for the underage sales to “protect their real source”.
Mr Ahmed insisted his shop had “never sold anything dodgy” and claimed people were “trying to take advantage” of them because of their ethnic background.
He told councillors: “We’ve never done anything wrong. People have put false allegations against me. There’s people in the area who’ve been racist against me.”
“All our community and our customers are happy with us. There’s a few odd people who are jealous of us and aren’t happy to see someone earning a livelihood.
“We’re right in front of the bus station. You can’t get away with doing anything wrong in front of Pudsey Bus Station. All eyes are on us.”
Mr Ahmed, a married father-of-two, told the hearing people “assumed” he’d sold alcohol and cigarettes to minors, because they could see them drinking outside his shop.
He claimed he’d tried to move groups of the youths on with the help of his customers, but with mixed results.
He also said ‘Bossman’ was a term of endearment his customers used regularly and denied the police’s assertion it was a code name.
After adjourning the hearing to deliberate, the panel of three councillors said they had come to a conclusion about whether or not to revoke the shop’s licence.
But this verdict was not revealed. Instead, the councillors told all parties they’d be informed of the decision within five working days.
The premises is currently open 8am-11pm Monday to Saturday, and 10am to 10.30pm on Sunday.
Councillors have the following options:
- Leave the licence as it is.
- to modify or add to the conditions of the licence.
- to remove the designated premises supervisor.
- to suspend the licence for a period not exceeding three months and/or
- to revoke the licence.
The documents relating to the meeting can be read here.