A businessman sold counterfeit cigarettes through his laundrette to cover financial problems and fund his alcoholism.

Barry Bray, 72, of Nook Street, Workington, admitted eight charges including the most serious of selling counterfeit cigarettes when he appeared before magistrates.

The court heard that Bray had hundreds of packets of counterfeit cigarettes which did not bear the required health warnings, breaching the Trade Marks Act 1994 and the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016.

Jonathan Farnsworth, prosecuting on behalf of Cumbria Trading Standards, said the department had intelligence that Mr Bray was selling cigarettes and carried out a test purchase at his laundrette, buying a sleeve which contained 10 packets of 20 counterfeit cigarettes each.

Police and Trading Standards then recovered 651 packets of Richmond King Size cigarettes and 219 packets of Excellence cigarettes, all of which were found to be counterfeit.

Mr Farnswroth said: “He essentially told Trading Standards that he needed money because he had a bit of a drink problem and he was aware that others in Workington were selling tobacco. He was well aware that what he was doing was illegal.

“In terms of how long he’d been selling the tobacco, he said in interview three or four months. In terms of profit he indicated that it would be £4 profit per sleeve and he was charging £37 per sleeve and £10 a 50g pack of rolling tobacco.”

Mr Farnsworth said the 880 packets of counterfeit cigarettes would have a turnover of £3,256. He added that police and Trading Standards also found illegal ‘whites’ cigarettes and tobacco in the property, recovering 110 packets of Brass King Size cigarettes and 112 packets of Virginia Gold rolling tobacco which would generate a turnover of £1,527.

“Mr Bray in interview also didn’t particularly help himself by asking Trading Standards what he needed to do to make it go away and he said that he was aware of others in Workington who had been busted but it had never gone to court,” Mr Farnsworth added.

“In terms of harm, the prosecution would say that in general the tobacco industry is highly regulated as to exactly what kind of nasties go into cigarettes and tobacco. Obviously for counterfeits there is no such regulation.”

“There’s no evidence that he’s involved in a large-scale operation.”

Mr Farnworth said the items recovered had not been tested to determine whether they were more toxic than genuine products.

Mike Pope, defending, said Bray had undergone two operations for prostate cancer which had affected his business and led to him drinking heavily, at one point consuming up to 10 pints of Guinness a day. He claimed it was the combination of these factors which led Bray to agree to sell counterfeit cigarettes when he was approached in a pub.

Mr Pope said: “I would ask you to accept that this was a small-scale operation with a large number of cigarettes but the profit was minimal.”

He added that Bray had referred himself to Unity for treatment for alcoholism and was no longer drinking and had a number of character references.

Bray was given a six-month curfew from 7pm to 7am and must pay a victim surcharge of £85 and investigation and legal costs of £2,748.60.