A Northampton newsagents has had its licence suspended for six weeks for hiring an employee with no right to work in the UK.
The Premier Fairfield News store, on Fairfield Road in Kingsley, will have a host of new conditions to adhere to when its licence is restored, with the owner saying it was a ‘genuine mistake’ instead of an act of deception.
A review of the licence was requested by Northamptonshire Police after the discovery of the worker during a visit to the premises on October 4 with trading standards officers. The visit was due to reports of watered-down vodka being sold, although none was found.
Instead officers found the illegal worker, with PC Chris Stevens telling a Northampton Borough Council committee: “The male tried to move to the rear of the building out of view, but due to his behaviour he was asked to provide ID. He said it was in his room and that he would get it. He then came back and said the door was locked, which we believe was a door from which he was attempting to make his escape.”
The worker was arrested on suspicion of immigration offences, and after he was identified at the police station it was established he had no right to work in the country and his visa to visit had expired. He applied for asylum later that day, according to Home Office papers.
PC Stevens felt the discovery raised a number of questions regarding the licence holder, and told the councillors: “We feel a suspension of the licence is necessary to send a strong message to the owner and to other owners that this will not be tolerated.”
Frank Fender, of FJF Licensing Solutions, acted as the agent for the licence holder Amirthalingam Krishnakumar, and said that he would not be disputing the claims, but had taken action to ensure the mistake would not be repeated.
He said: “Mr Krishnakumar believed, mistakenly, that the worker was entitled to work here. At the original point of employment he had an entry visa, but he failed to establish that although he was in the country legally, he did not have the right to work here.
“It was not a deliberate act to deceive, it was a genuine mistake and since then he has put necessary things in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“It may be a case of ‘after the horse has bolted’ but he has recognised it and that is to his credit and should be beared in mind with any sanctions you may take.”
The council’s sub-licensing committee heard this morning (December 6) how the male, an Indian national, had approached the store and asked for work, and that he was subsequently given a room above the shop in which to live.
Although the councillors accepted that it was an ‘isolated event’ in eight years of the licence being held by Mr Krishnakumar, it suspended the licence for six weeks, and imposed conditions agreed with the police.
The conditions state that all people working on the premises will have their right to work checked, and that records will be maintained for at least six months after employment ceased.
The chairman of the sub-licensing committee, Councillor Brian Sargeant, told Mr Krishnakumar: “You have been very lucky today. We wish you the best of luck with your business, but don’t do it again.”