What do you do and where do you come from?
I’m one of two Principal Trading Standards Officers in the Trading Standards team (I’m specifically responsible for Fair Trading and Safety matters). I’m originally from Dukinfield in Tameside, a small Metropolitan Borough in Greater Manchester.
How did you end up in your current role? What inspired you to work in Trading Standards?
I’ve always been fascinated with the law and so after college I decided I wanted to go to University to get a law degree. At the time, I didn’t have enough UCAS points to do an LLB and so I did a BA (Hons) in Consumer Protection. This seemed perfect as it covered a multitude of legal modules including the basics.
In the final year of my degree, during a mock trial with real Magistrates, I was presenting a case as the prosecuting Solicitor about the underage sale of glue products and was offered a trainee place by one of the Magistrates at my local council!
The trainee position involved practical work experience and an academic portfolio which would take 18 months to complete and resulted in a Diploma in Trading Standards.
I have spent many years, 15 now, in the Trading Standards profession, moving from Tameside to Durham, to Cornwall and now to Derby and I am still passionate about what we do. It doesn’t matter which Council you work for the aim is the same and that’s to protect consumers, the vulnerable and legitimate traders and that’s why I am still inspired to this day to be in this profession.
What do you enjoy about the job and what is the most rewarding part of your job?
They say variety is the spice of life and there is so much variety in the work that we do. No two days are the same and that’s what I most enjoy and what keeps me interested. I’m also fortunate enough to be working with a great team of officers and it’s great to come to work with such a nice, committed and friendly bunch of colleagues.
The most rewarding part of my role is either getting a successful prosecution or, supporting the most vulnerable members of society to a successful outcome.
Not so long ago, a vulnerable gentleman got conned out of £7,000 of his life savings by an overseas investment company. He had previously suffered a stroke, was socially isolated and felt alone. Sadly, we couldn’t get him his money back but working with local area co-ordinator colleagues, he was re-introduced back into social activities and now provides guitar lessons to the younger generation.
Our work may not always end with a prosecution or refund but helping vulnerable people get their lives back on track, like those described above is definitely what makes our job worthwhile.
What kind of challenges do you encounter on a daily basis in your role?
We face many challenges in Trading Standards but to give you an idea of the nitty gritty – during investigations (like illicit tobacco investigations), it’s getting to the truth and the facts of the case.
Often we’re faced with owners of businesses who are simply paid to be named on a lease and have no further involvement. They then claim to know nothing about what is being sold from the retail premises they are allegedly responsible for. When we talk to employees, they have only worked there for a couple of days and only know the first name of the owner and claim to not have any contact details, if they do happen to have a number, it is normally an unregistered sim.
This can prove to be complicated as we have to follow all reasonable lines of enquiry, which usually includes a name that leads to nowhere. These complications mean it can take between one to two years to investigate what would otherwise be a straightforward illicit tobacco investigation.
How can the public support or get involved with Trading Standards in the city?
Trading Standards cover a multitude of areas from rogue traders to food being sold past its use-by date. If the public have any concerns regarding any dealings they have had with traders they can report it to the Citizens Advice and Consumer Service (CACS) on 03454 04 05 06. They will receive free initial advice from CACS on their legal rights concerning that trader and what to do next. That report then gets passed to us so we can determine whether or not any enforcement action is required.
In terms of illicit tobacco, there is still a large problem in the area and we will be continuing to tackle its sale and supply. The public are our eyes and ears when out and about so if anyone would like to report any intelligence they hold, whether it’s being stored at residential or retail premises, any hides they know of or operating method then they can also report this confidentially to CACS on the number above.