REGARDING your report (February 19) that the owner of ITR News in Sheen Lane, Mr Anujh Patel, was fined £250 for selling a 15-year-old girl a packet of cigarettes, the girl being a 'volunteer' with Richmond Council's trading standards department taking part in a 'test purchase operation'.

We're not told in the article that Mr Patel had any previous convictions, so we can assume he did not.

We're not told either how the girl was presented - whether she was dressed and made up to look over 18, which seems quite readily done and whether she was 'planted' when the shop was particularly busy, as Mr Patel said in his letter to the court.

His 'crime' was just to fail to ask her for her identification card.

I don't condone selling cigarettes to young people but in my book this was clearly entrapment.

And what is the propriety of using a 15-year-old girl for such purposes; indeed exactly what sort of 'volunteer' was she?

While I was amazed at the level of fine imposed, especially as Mr Patel had pleaded guilty, I was really shocked by then reading that he had also had to pay enormous council costs of £785 and a victim surcharge (whatever that is) of £15.

A total 'fine' of £1,050! A fortune to a small shopkeeper.

I don't know Mr Patel, nor even exactly where his shop is, but to me this sounds a quite disproportionate judicial outcome, especially when compared to the lenient responses we see meted out daily for much more sociallydamaging crimes.

A warning would surely have been enough for a first-time offence.

These days we seem to have lost all sense of proportion in matters of relative justice.


Kingston (Full address supplied)