Dealers preyed on children with drugs in fake Skittles and Jelly Tots packets

14-01-22 Speedwell Mini Market-Google Maps
A licensing hearing was told sports cars regularly made brief stops at the shop to collect packages. Young people were also seen on bicycles. Credit: Google Maps

A convenience store in Bristol was taken over by known drug dealers and used as a hub for organised crime across the city.

Police say criminals took over Speedwell Mini Market, in Ventnor Road, preying on vulnerable children to work for them.

Cannabis was sold disguised in fake Skittles and Jelly Tots sweets packets, which officers found pre-printed ready to be sealed.

A licensing hearing was told sports cars regularly made brief stops at the shop to collect packages.

Police also found mobile SIM cards and illicit Viagra for sale behind the counter; police told Bristol City Council licensing sub-committee.

Councillors agreed with an application by Avon and Somerset Constabulary to revoke the premises licence.

Inspector Kris Harris told members there had been a massive increase in reports of suspicious activity at the shop over the past 18 months, with more than 100 calls from the public, plus intelligence from sources.

He said: “We have significant concerns related to the premises. If action is not taken, there is a risk of serious harm or exploitation taking place.”

He added the premises' licence holder, Mohammed Arsan Hussein, had been absent from the business for some time.

“He has effectively lost control of the premises and we believe the premises are being run by an organised crime group, these members not being the premises licence holder or the designated premises supervisor,” he said.

Mr Hussein told the panel he was “shocked” and “horrified” that the shop had become a base for criminals. His family had run it for years before his father leased it out in 2017. Since then he had assumed he had nothing to do with it.

The 35-year-old added that he did not realise his name was still on the licence and did not object to revoking it.

Beat manager PC Clare Heard said the business did not operate like the shop it appeared to be. It had little on the shelves, no backroom stock or staff rota and its hours were “erratic”, usually not opening until late morning.

“Whenever I was up there, I would absolutely without fail see incidents which caused me concern,” she said.

“We had increasing reports of speeding cars, antisocial driving, noise and frequency of attendance of cars linked to OCGs (organised crime groups).

“There were issues of public nuisance related to drug dealing, and there was recognisable suspicious activity of people coming up on pedal cycles, making exchanges and then cycling away.

“There were a lot of children. A lot of vulnerable kids live in that area, and I would quite often see youngsters hanging around with adults who I would recognise as related to OCGs and involved in drug dealing.

"A hub of activity."

She said people often loitered outside the property, intimidating residents and being “hostile, verbally abusive and aggressive” to police.

“This place was being used as a hub to facilitate criminal activity,” PC Heard explained.

“A lot of the people I saw were from across the whole of Bristol, so it was a hub of activity for the whole of Bristol, not just the local area.

“All the people frequenting the premises are well known to us.”

During a search in July, she said they found “a lot of pre-printed empty plastic sachets that you would heat, seal, and mark up to look like Skittles or Jelly Tots but it would be a cannabis product put into these bags and sold”.

Police licensing officer Louise Mowbray told the City Hall hearing: “We are really concerned about young people frequenting these premises – the vulnerability, exploitation and criminality.

“These reports continue to come in. We have lots of young people associating with drug dealers and organised crime.”

She said suspected offences included cannabis cultivation, supply of cocaine, sale of alcohol to children and exploitation of youngsters.