Trading Standards Enforcement Policy

1.0 Introduction

1.1 The purpose of Hampshire County Council’s Trading Standards enforcement activities is to protect the public, legitimate business, and the environment. This policy sets out what businesses and others being regulated can expect from Hampshire County Council Trading Standards officers

1.2 The Trading Standards Service mission is to be: A modern proactive business designed to keep Hampshire safe.

1.3 In doing this we focus on providing advice and guidance, working with businesses to help them understand and comply with their obligations, to encourage them to develop and grow.

1.4 There will be occasions where other action may be necessary to deal with situations where the law (criminal and civil) has been broken (an “offence”). Each case will be considered on its own merits.

1.5 This policy is intended to promote effective regulatory inspection and enforcement, improving outcomes without imposing unnecessary burdens on business.


2.0 Enforcement Policy

2.1 The Service will not respond to individual complaints or address every non-compliance with businesses.

2.2 Service demand is managed through a tactical tasking process designed to target resources effectively and focus activity on those businesses who cause the greatest harm to consumers and legitimate business.

2.3 Trading Standards follows the principles and objectives of the statutory Code of Practice for Regulators (‘the Code’) made under the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006. We believe that all enforcement should be risk based, transparent and proportionate.

2.4 In certain instances we may conclude that a provision in the code is either not relevant or is outweighed by another provision. Where we depart from the code, we will ensure that the decision is reasoned, evidenced and documented.

2.5 Where we intervene in a matter, we will always consider the most justified, appropriate, and proportionate methods for dealing with the issues raised.

2.6 If we exercise any of our enforcement powers such as seizing goods, equipment or documents, we will give written notice to a business explaining the extent of those powers and the nature of any equivalent rights which the business may have.

2.7 A range of sanctions are available to be considered according to the associated risk and seriousness of the matter.

Sanctions include:

  • Securing an undertaking from a business that they will comply with their legal obligations
  • Taking action in the civil courts to seek orders
  • Issuing written warnings
  • Issuing simple cautions
  • Prosecuting offenders in the criminal courts
  • Restraint, confiscation, and forfeiture of assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002
  • Exercising forfeiture of goods provisions
  • Issuing Suspension Notices, Improvement Notices, or other such statutory notices and documents
  • Issuing of Penalty Charge Notices
  • Revocation or suspension of a licence, registration, or approval
  • Instituting a license review (e.g., alcohol sales)
  • Seeking a banning order under the Animal Welfare Act
  • Having animals removed from their owners/keepers
  • Instituting a product recall

2.8 The aim of any intervention is to:

  • Respond proportionately to the nature of the issue and the harm caused
  • Protect consumers and legitimate businesses
  • Change the behaviour of the offender
  • Eliminate any financial gain or benefit from non-compliance
  • To secure justice for victims, witnesses, defendants, and the public

2.9 In any intervention we will consider matters which aggravate or mitigate the seriousness of the offence so that the most appropriate and proportionate method of disposal is chosen.

3.0 Aggravating Factors

  • The impact or potential impact of the offence is so serious that prosecution is the only suitable method for disposal.
  • Whether the offence continued over a long period of time or involved a series of offences against the same or different victims.
  • Degree of pre-planning.
  • Age or vulnerability of the victim(s).
  • Amount of gain for the offender or the amount of loss to the victim, relative to the victim’s status.
  • Impact of the crime on the victim.
  • Prevalence of the offence and its impact on the community.
  • Where there is any evidence of the crime being motivated by hate (hate crimes).
  • Any attempt by the offender to conceal their identity, whether directly or indirectly, such that the victim and / or investigating agencies cannot easily identify or trace the person.
  • Lack of remorse.
  • The offender’s history including previous advice, warnings, cautions and convictions.
  • There is evidence of significant and / or continuing consumer or public detriment.
  • There is risk to public health and safety, animal health and welfare or the environment.
  • The offender disregards the needs of animal health disease control legislation.
  • The offender has acted fraudulently or is reckless or negligent in their activities.
  • An officer was deliberately obstructed.

4.0 Mitigating Factors

  • Prompt acknowledgement of guilt.
  • Making timely and appropriate compensation to the victim(s).
  • Previous good character.
  • Age and / or lack of maturity where it affects the responsibility of the offender.
  • Lesser degree of culpability.
  • Any other factor which, considered objectively in relation to the offence, tends to diminish the seriousness of the crime even though it does not provide a defence to it.

5.0 Action that can be Taken

The options for appropriate methods of disposal of any matter are not sequential. The most appropriate method will be identified and adopted.

5.1 Prosecution

5.1.1 The Trading Standards Service recognises that a prosecution has serious implications for all involved and have developed this policy so that we can make fair and consistent decisions in all cases.

5.1.2 We will have regard for this policy and the Code for Crown Prosecutors in particular:.

  • Is there is sufficient evidence that a criminal offence has been committed and there is a realistic prospect of conviction?
  • Is a prosecution in the public interest?

5.1.3 Consideration will also be given to the Code made under the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006.

5.1.4 In some cases prosecutions may be taken concurrently with civil proceedings.

5.2 Simple caution

5.2.1 Where there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction (if the offender were to be prosecuted), and the offender admits their guilt, consideration may be given to dealing with the case by way of a caution.

5.2.2 If a simple caution is rejected the Service reserves the right to consider instigating prosecution proceedings.

5.3 Fixed penalty notice, or a penalty notice for disorder

5.3.1 Where there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction (if the offender were to be prosecuted) and / or the offender recognises the offence, if available, the offender may be offered a fixed penalty notice or penalty notice for disorder.

5.3.2 If a fixed penalty notice or a penalty notice for disorder is rejected the Service reserves the right to consider instigating prosecution proceedings.

5.4 Financial investigations under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002

5.4.1 The Trading Standards Service will consider whether it is appropriate to utilise powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA), to ensure the defendant is deprived of the proceeds of their criminal conduct. Where investigations identify money laundering offences, we will consider prosecuting for those offences.

5.4.2 The Trading Standards Service will consider using restraint powers under POCA to prevent the dissipation of assets from satisfying a confiscation order (from which compensation may be ordered to be paid).

5.5 Undertaking

5.5.1 The Trading Standards Service takes a staged approach to civil redress.

5.5.2 Unless the matters investigated are serious enough to justify immediate civil or criminal proceedings, a formal undertaking may be sought from the offender within the meaning of the Enterprise Act 2002 to stop or continue doing the matters complained of, where the offender is willing to enter into an undertaking.

5.5.3 A breach of the undertaking can result in proceedings being issued.

5.6 Injunctions

5.6.1 Where an individual or business operates in such a way that it harms consumers, an application may be made to the civil courts for an injunction to stop the detrimental activities.

5.6.2 An application will not be made unless the detrimental activities have been explained (or attempted to be explained) to offenders with advice on how to operate legitimately, unless the detrimental practices create a threat to human safety, when an urgent application may be made.

5.7 Written warnings

5.7.1 If the particulars of a case considered in conjunction with this enforcement policy suggest that future compliance can be achieved without resorting to legal proceedings, this Service will consider issuing a written warning and / or specific instructions as appropriate.

5.7.2 No written warning will be entertained unless there is reliable evidence to support an assertion of offending.

5.7.3 Written warnings can be considered in the event of any future offences.

5.8 Suspending goods from sale

5.8.1 Where it is necessary to protect the public, goods suspected of being unsafe or non-compliant with safety legislation will be suspended from sale.

5.9 Seeking a banning order under the Animal Welfare Act

5.9.1 Where an owner/keeper of an animal has subjected it to unnecessary suffering and this behaviour is likely to continue, we will consider applying for a banning order preventing that individual from keeping animals, or animals of a particular type or number.

5.10 Having animals removed from their owners/keeper

5.10.1 We will consider removing animals from their owners/keepers where:

  • They are illegally landed in the UK and are required to be quarantined.
  • On the grounds of welfare

5.11 Refusal, termination or variation of a licence/registration

5.11.1 The refusal, revocation or variation of a licence or registration will be considered where the conditions attached to a licence or registration, or the legal requirements to hold such a licence, registration or approval have not been met.

5.12 Dealing with offences at licenced premises

5.12.1 In the case of offences committed at a licensed premises, including the illegal sale of age restricted products, consideration will be given to instituting a review of the premises licence.

5.12.2 The Service reserves the right to consider other enforcement options.

6.0 Partnership working

6.1 Wherever practicable we will endeavour to liaise with other relevant agencies with a joint or complementary enforcement role to ensure a consistent and coordinated approach.

6.2 Before instigating formal action, the Trading Standards Service will liaise with all relevant agencies where a joint or complementary enforcement role is identified. We subscribe to the principles of the Primary Authority Principle under the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008.

6.3 We will share intelligence with other enforcement agencies where this is practicable, beneficial and cost effective (subject to restrictions under the Data Protection Act, and other Trading Standards legislation).

6.4 Data sharing will be conducted through appropriate information gateway.

7.0 Complaints Procedure

7.1 The Trading Standards Service adheres to the County Council’s complaints policy.