A New Acton food store has been stung with more than $1600 in fines and court costs after selling cigarettes over the counter without a licence.
But the ACT Magistrates Court has heard the company was unaware they no longer held a licence after it lapsed due to a “clerical oversight” more than two years earlier.
As Nature Selected Pty Ltd, trading as Urban Foodstore and Café, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to two counts of selling tobacco products without a licence.
The café and food retailer’s tobacco licence expired in September 2009 and went unchecked for 28 months.
Then, in January this year, an undercover inspector from the Office of Regulatory Services bought a pack of cigarettes over the counter.
The court heard the inspector asked to see a licence, but the staff member was unable to produce one.
Less than a week later another inspector came into the store and asked for a packet of cigarettes, then asking to see a licence.
A company director told the court Tuesday’s court hearing was the first time he’d been informed of the January incident.
“Well it seems there’s an employee you might need to speak to,” Magistrate Bernadette Boss replied.
The director said he went down to the Office of Regulatory Services the next day and renewed the tobacco licence.
The court heard the store operator showed immediate remorse, and had no previous convictions for any regulatory breaches.
But the prosecutor said the offences were aggravated by the prolonged unlicensed period.
“That is not a matter where there is an administrative oversight for a matter of days or weeks,” he said.
Dr Boss accepted there had been “some level of mix-up" between the store’s administrators and operators.
But she said there were “very strong policy reasons for the strict control of tobacco”.
“There is a risk, particularly to young people, as to the purchase of cigarettes, as well as to the general health of the community,” the magistrate said.
She convicted the company on both counts and fined them $1500, plus $129 in court costs.