A Southwark borough shopkeeper was ordered to pay £8,000 fines, £13,027 costs and £4,888 under the Proceeds of Crime Act (£25,915 in total), for offences relating to the illegal sale of dangerous skin lightening products.
The shopkeeper was also given a 15 week suspended sentence and 100 days unpaid work when sentenced at the Inner London crown court.
This is the second time Southwark council have prosecuted the man, from Tottenham, who they say is a “persistent offender” with previous convictions for similar offences committed at the same branch as well as shops in Hackney and Enfield.
He had pleaded guilty to ten offences relating to the supply of illegal skin lightening products.
“Some of the products contained ingredients so potent they were classed as prescription only medicines” said a Southwark council spokeswoman. “Selling such products is against cosmetic products and human medicines regulations.
On 9 December 2015, some 2,500 products were seized by Southwark council’s trading standards team at premises in Peckham – most of which were uncovered in a concealed storage space at the back of the shop.
“Under-cover trading standards test purchases in the store revealed the sale of illegal skin lighteners, sold on an under-the-counter basis.
“Analysis showed these products contained prohibited ingredients, such as hydroquinone and corticosteroids; both of which are banned in cosmetic products, due to concerns over serious and irreversible skin damage, as well as links to liver, nervous system damage and an increased risk of skin cancer.
Southwark council describe themselves as one of the most proactive enforcement authorities in the UK, in regard to finding and prosecuting vendors of illegal skin lighteners. Between 2002 and 2016, 19 local cosmetic suppliers were convicted of supplying dangerous and illegal skin lightening products. Total fines and costs have amounted to £394,000, with two suspended prison sentences.
Cllr Barrie Hargrove, Southwark’s cabinet member for communities, leisure and safety, said: “Southwark work tirelessly to protect the borough’s shoppers from irresponsible vendors who seek profit at the expense of their customer’s health.
“This man is such a shopkeeper. “He has demonstrated flagrant disregard for both the law and the safety of his customers, by persistently selling dangerous skin lightening products and ignoring both the council and the courts.
“I support the judge’s decision to bestow significant fines and costs, and hope that this will act as a serious deterrent to anyone thinking of selling illegal and dangerous skin whitening products here in future.”
2,494 items, were seized during a raid on 9 December 2015, 904 were cosmetics and 1,590 appeared to be classifiable as medicinal.
Hydroquinone works by inhibiting production of the pigment melanin which gives skin its colour. However melanin is vital to protect the skin against UV radiation so the body will over compensate by producing more melanin.
· This results in a darker patchier appearance developing
· It damages the elastin strands in skin causes premature aging and weakening of the skin
· It can cause neuropathy, a disease of the nervous system
· It can damage your liver
· It increases the risk of the development of skin cancer from exposure to UV radiation
Further information: http://www.southwark.gov.uk/business/trading-standards-and-food-safety/illegal-skin-lighteners
(Source: Southwark council press release)