Politicians are allowed to make mistakes (one can hear the rumbling of the tumbrels, but no one has actually been banged up yet). Police are allowed to make mistakes and no officials go around trying to set them up - we don’t see officials running into tube stations the way ‘terrorists’ do - to test whether they’re abiding by the rules. But it’s okay to set up retailers.

Entrapment is a rather nasty activity. It means, like it or not, one day everyone will have to have ID cards (for our own ‘protection’) to go anywhere.

I thought you would be interested in the following experience of a Northamptonshire retailer.

He’s been at the job for 15 years before making one error of judgement. Not even so much as a parking ticket before that.

His lapse involved what turned out to be a trading standards officer with what turned out to be a 15-year-old girl who asked for lighter fuel. He keeps it in a cupboard, which meant turning around, which he did, and was distracted by another customer.

Now really, is this something he would risk his livelihood for? It can carry a maximum of six months’ imprisonment.

“I had to wait weeks and weeks for the letter and I hadn’t really done anything wrong. Just an error. Now every time I turn around when serving anyone young I think ‘Are they? Aren’t they? You lose your judgement. It plays on your mind.”

Then there was the interview. They wanted his side of the story, which he gave. They showed him her picture and he still thought she looked old enough.

“I was compliant with all the procedures,” he says, “signage, refusals book and staff training.”

The retailer, who describes himself as a “worst case scenario-type” has to wait six weeks for the outcome.

Meanwhile, he’s been to the doctor because this has knocked him sideways. And he says: “I want out of the business now. I’ve lost interest.”

Topics