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Abracadabra convenience store in Christchurch High Street stripped of premises licence after damning Dorset Police report

A Christchurch convenience store was stripped of its licence after a damning report by police highlighted concerns over alleged child grooming, the use of weapons by staff and the sale of alcohol to children.

Police asked BCP Council’s sub-licensing committee to revoke Abracadabra’s premises licence after multiple visits to the High Street store sparked suspicions over the sale of stolen goods, sexual harassment of young women and possible immigration offences.

Much of the committee meeting was held in closed session – meaning the press and public were excluded – due to the “sensitive” nature of the issues to be discussed.

However, a police report presented to the committee revealed the force had received an increasing number of “reports of concern related to the premises” since the current licence holder Yunis Mohammad took over the shop – also known as E&E – in May last year.

“These include the way the operators engage with youths, particularly young women,” it said. “Low level sexual harassment has been reported on two occasions by two separate individuals.”

The report also reveals that during one visit by officers, a woman approached the store but “appeared to be deterred from entering on sighting persons of authority”.

“When questioned, the female advised that she had some fresh food products for sale which she had found nearby,” police said. “The operator stated they did not wish to purchase any products; however, there is intelligence that suggests staff have previously purchased stolen goods.”

The meeting heard that Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service had issued a prohibition notice due to evidence people were using a room at the back of the shop as an “unauthorised dwelling”.

During two visits officers discovered a “makeshift sleeping area” in a rear office, and noticed a baseball bat propped up in the corner. The smoke alarm had also been taped over.

Staff questioned by police denied working at the premises, claiming they were “helping out” and were not being paid, the report stated.

Sergeant Gareth Gosling, of Dorset Police’s drug and alcohol harm reduction team, also told the meeting there had been “youth-related anti-social behaviour” outside the premises, which the report said staff at the store had done “nothing about”.

He continued: “There has been historical issues with the storing and sale of illegal vapes, but following an intervention by Trading Standards that seems to have been resolved.

“More recently, concerns have been raised by our partners in immigration.”

June Clarke, of JMC Licensing Consultants, representing Mr Mohammad, pointed out the committee had received correspondence from customers in support of Abracadabra “praising the way it operates”.

“It shows merit on the staff that they’ve actually passed two test purchases,” she said, adding: “Yes the police do have the right of entry to the premises to investigate licensable activities, but there should be 24 hours’ notice so the designated premises supervisor can be there.

“Officers in my opinion should not be going in interrogating part-time staff – I think that’s completely wrong and I think that’s where a lot of these problems are.”

However, Sgt Gosling pointed out that police visits had not “simply been inspections”, and that the law allowed officers to go in without notice if concerns had been raised.

Ms Clarke continued: “There’s been a lot of accusation but at the end of the day, nothing has been brought to the table except one video from years ago.

“Things are not right but he’s had no assistance from police or anybody else – they’ve just gone in there and forced their way through the doors.”

The committee agreed to revoke the premises licence on the grounds there had been “persistent breaches” at the business since May 2023.

Members also noted Mr Mohammad had “failed to fully engage with Dorset Police and act on advice given”.

“The sub-committee was particularly concerned that Mr Mohammad was unable to list the four licensing objectives when requested to do so,” they added.

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