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Shisha shenanigans fail to stop Council prosecution

The proprietor of an illegal Shisha smoking den in Walthamstow who gave Waltham Forest Council officers the run-around has been found guilty of multiple offences at Thames Magistrates’ Court.

In the first successful Shisha smoking prosecution brought by the Council, Mr Jabadul Islam, 25, of Kestrel Close, Hainault, Essex, pleaded guilty to five offences. At a previous hearing he had pleaded not guilty to all the offences, but decided to change his plea after seeking the advice of a solicitor.

The story stretches back nine months when Environmental Health Officers visited the Lotus Lounge at 282B Forest Road, Walthamstow on 12 March. Accompanied by a locksmith, the officers had to break in through two doors to gain entry after being ignored by those inside.

On gaining access officers witnessed evidence of smoking, and saw people hiding evidence and throwing it in the bin. Patrons were replacing normal shisha clay bowls (used to smoke shisha molasses) with e-shisha bowls and some were seen taking several bags down the fire escape stairs.

Later it was discovered that some of these bags contained shisha molasses, and crucially the officers also discovered a tray of hot charcoal in the ladies’ toilet. Hot charcoal is used to heat shisha molasses during shisha smoking and a sure sign that shisha smoking was taking place.

Officers also seized CCTV that revealed both cigarette and shisha smoking taking place on three separate days. The footage also showed money changing hands, proving that the operation was being run as a business.

During an interview at the Council’s offices Mr Islam told officers that he only ever smoked e-shisha at his premises and that he had been there on the night of the visit, but had left before officers gained access. The CCTV footage showed Mr Islam replacing clay shisha bowls with e-shisha bowls and then leaving through the fire escape door as officers attempted to gain access.

On 11 December Mr Islam was fined £130 for each of the five offences with which he was charged – three for failing to prevent smoking in a smoke-free place and two for obstruction and hiding or removing evidence.

In addition Mr Islam was ordered to pay £3,000 of the Council’s costs and a £15 Victim Surcharge, leaving him with a total bill of £3,665. Councillor Clyde Loakes, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Environment, said, “I know a lot of hard work went into this operation so this is a great result.

“When smoking was banned in enclosed public places eight years ago there was much talk of it being driven underground. Largely this has proven to be unfounded, but where we find it going on we will not hesitate to stamp it out.”

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