FIVE shops on Brierley Hill high street have been hit with closure orders over the sale of illegal tobacco.

Eazy Shop, Day 2 Day, Istanbul, Polo Mini Market and ASA Mini Market have been ordered to close for a minimum of three months by Dudley Magistrates Court.

The case, brought to court by Dudley Trading Standards, was the first case of its kind in the country where a local authority has used its powers to take five premises to court at the same time.

The trading standards team spent months investigating reports and suspicious activity to build a bank of evidence against the shops.

All five shops were served a 24-hour closure notice on November 18, which was extended the following day to run until the full hearing of the case in court on November 28.

Deborah Harkins, director responsible for trading standards, said: "We are really pleased with the result from court today. This is a ground-breaking case, which has seen our trading standards officers work extensively to build up a bank of evidence against these five shops, which have continued to flout the law and sell illegal products on the High Street.

"Not only are these products even more harmful to people’s health, these rogue premises are failing to pay their taxes, which is unfair on those trading legitimately in the town.

"We’ll now be working with the landlords of all five properties to ensure they let their premises to reputable, legitimate people in the future.

"As an authority we remain committed to regenerating Brierley Hill High Street and supporting those traders who are working hard to earn an honest living.

"We are working with local communities and traders to secure millions of pounds of investment through a number of initiatives to support our ambitions."

Jo Myatt-Jones, Brierley Hill neighbourhood policing Inspector, said: "Unfortunately the sale of illicit and counterfeit cigarettes is not a victimless crime. The illegal trade causes nuisance, disorder and crime affecting our communities and can be intrinsically linked with organised criminality such as drug dealing, money laundering, slavery and people trafficking.

"These closures should serve as a warning to those who engage in criminal activity. If you have something to hide, we will take action."