Shopkeeper spared jail after selling toxic skin lightening creams

A shopkeeper in the UK has been spared jail after he was found selling toxic skin lightening creams.

Banaras Hussain, 50, from Tottenham, north London, was fined £8,000 (€9,065.92) at Inner London Crown Court for selling products containing banned skincare ingredients in Shaba Hair & Cosmetics in Peckham.

He was also given a 15-week suspended sentence, ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work and the company was find £10,000 (€11,332.40).

The harmful products, some of which are manufactured in the EU, are marketed and sold to consumers from African and Asian cultures, the court heard.

A product which was seized in 2015 at Shaba Hair & Cosmetics, Peckham, as the shopkeeper Banaras Hussain, 50, who has been fined £8,000 and given two 15-week suspended jail terms at Inner London Crown Court.

They were found to contain hydroquinone and corticosteroids - and dangers include thinning of the skin, premature ageing, patchy skin, liver damage, neuropathy, and an increased risk of skin cancer.

Judge Jeremy Donne told Hussain: "I am satisfied that you knew what was happening during the test operation.

"I am quite satisfied that you were marketing the products for profit because you were aware they were in demand by people from these cultures."

Leaving court, Hussain told reporters he would "completely" stop selling the products.

Asked if he felt sorry for having sold them, he replied: "No comment."

Mr Matthew Pardoe, prosecuting on behalf of Southwark Council, told the court that two separate visits were made to the store in September and December 2015, the first of which was a "covert operation" by an officer from the council's trading standards team.

The officer purchased Caro White, a cream containing 13% hydroquinone and another lotion which contains corticosteroids - both prescription-only drugs.

Both products were retrieved from behind the counter and neither were labelled as containing the restricted ingredients, the court heard.

Subsequently, some 2,500 products were seized from the store in Peckham's Rye Lane by Southwark Council's Trading Standards team on December 9, 2015.

Southwark Council said most of the creams were found concealed in the back of the shop and were sold on an "under-the-counter basis".

Hussain, who carries previous convictions for similar offences, was disqualified as company director in May 2016.

Judge Donne told Hussain: "If you commit further offences within the 18-month period... I am pretty sure that a court would order you to serve imprisonment immediately."

Mr Andrew Bousfield, mitigating, said: "There doesn't appear to have been complaints from customers in this case.

"These creams are available on Amazon and Ebay and are widely used in the UK. It is clearly a serious cultural problem."

Mr Pardoe said the creams carry "significant side effects to those who use it, so if it is going to be used, it needs to be done so with the supervision of a doctor".

He added that hydroquinone is a chemical for use in hair dyes and bleach, and said: "It is not supposed to be applied to the skin."

The council fined 19 businesses a total of £394,000 (€446,496.56) between 2002 and 2016 for sale of skin lightening products, while London Trading Standards fined 15 retailers a total of £168,579 (€191,040.47) in 2017.

Southwark Council warns on its website that the supply of these products is an "ongoing community issue".

- PA

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