Limehouse shop accused of selling laughing gas to children is banned from selling alcohol
PUBLISHED: 11:43 18 October 2018 | UPDATED: 10:07 19 October 2018
A shop in Limehouse accused of selling laughing gas to children as young as 14 has lost its licence to sell alcohol.
Almost 13,500 silver canisters of so-called “hippy crack” were discovered during a raid on Tanim Superstore in Commercial Road earlier this year, police said.
Officers searched the shop and found the stash of nitrous oxide canisters, with a street value of £5,620, after receiving a tip off.
In a report to Tower Hamlets Council’s licencing board, police said a teenager was hospitalised after inhaling from the nitrous oxide canisters bought at the store.
Shop bosses fervently denied the accusations at a licensing review on Tuesday night.
“Both the police and Tower Hamlets Council received intelligence that the premises was involved in selling nitrous oxide to people who were using it to inhale,” a review called by the Metropolitan Police said.
“People are coming to the shop from different areas to purchase nitrous oxide. The shop has sold to children as young as 14 who had to be taken to hospital as a result of inhaling [the gas].”
But Jaspal Singh, on behalf of Tanim Superstore, said there was no evidence any teenagers had been harmed after buying laughing gas in the shop.
He said: “It is submitted on behalf of Tanim Superstore that this is a malicious report and this report has been misquoted. This report refers to a neighbour’s son being hospitalised due to a seizure caused by nitrous oxide.
“There is no suggestion in the report that these capsules were purchased from Tanim . It appears that this reference to a 14-year-old is confused with the comment within the report that the complainant’s friend had asked her son to go in and purchase these silver capsules and he was also served, the complainant has offered no evidence of this apparent purchase.”
During a visit on June 22 an undercover officer said he witnessed “several young people” trying to purchases laughing gas canisters from the shop.
When one woman was passed a bag by the shopkeeper she said “last time you didn’t give me any balloons”, according to the report.
After she was stopped outside the shop she told officers she was on her way to a party and had paid £10 for a box of canisters.
When the undercover officer made himself known to shop staff, he said he witnessed “several young people come into the store who were extremely disappointed because they couldn’t buy nitrous oxide canisters”.
The officer searched the shop and found almost 13,500 silver canisters.
The police report added Tanim Superstore had also been suspected of selling laughing gas in September last year and had allegedly sold alcohol to people who were already drunk.
But Tanim bosses said there was no evidence people were visiting the shop specifically to buy laughing gas.
“Following the seizure of stock and due to the on- going police investigation Tanim Supermarket no longer stock nitrous oxide canisters,” Mr Singh wrote in a letter to the council.
“It is not accepted that nitrous oxide canisters are responsible for anti-social behaviour within the Commercial Road area within the vicinity of Tanim Supermarket.”
There are legitimate reasons for purchasing nitrous oxide and the canisters are commonly used in catering aerosol cans. However, under the 2016 Psychoactive Substances Act it is illegal to sell or import the drug for human consumption.
Tower Hamlets mayor, John Biggs, said: “I commend the licensing sub-committee for revoking the licence in this case and taking a stand against this unacceptable behaviour.
“Nitrous oxide has become a significant concern for our residents and across London, and really is no laughing matter. It is linked to a variety of antisocial behaviours and we are doing all we can to tackle it.
“We are committed to educating people about the risks and problems associated with laughing gas, taking action against those selling it and cleaning up the mess it leaves behind.”