Stuart Phillips is a multi award-winning detection dog handler, trainer and instructor. In 2009 Stuart formed B.W.Y Canine Ltd, who now provide trained and untrained detection dogs, training and consultancy services to clients in the UK and internationally.
Sniffer dogs find 'illegal' tobacco in 'James Bond-style' hiding places in Gravesham and Dartford
Sniffer dogs tracked down more than £30,000 worth of suspected illegal tobacco, some concealed in “James Bond-style” hiding places, when shops in Gravesham and Dartford were raided this week.
Kent Trading Standards officers targeted three addresses in the Gravesham borough, which we have agreed not to identify due to possible legal proceedings, on Monday as part of an ongoing operation to crack down on the crime and raise public awareness of it.
The following day the team found an even bigger haul - worth an estimated £20,000 - while raiding just two shops in Dartford.
Further raids took place throughout the week.
They were accompanied by Stu Phillips from Pembrokeshire-based B.W.Y Canine Ltd and four spaniels – two fully trained sniffer dogs and another two in training.
Black springer cross cocker spaniel Phoebe and brown working cocker spaniel Yoyo sniffed out tobacco hidden in specially built containers, which Mr Phillips said resembled gadgets from Ian Fleming’s 007 novels and films.
One picture taken after Monday's Gravesham raids show Yoyo with a haul that was “found hidden in a James Bond style concealment”, Mr Phillips said.
Sophisticated criminals often conceal cigarettes within walls or shop counters, which open at the press of a mobile phone button, key fob or television remote control to reveal the stash.
James Whiddett, operations manager for Kent Trading Standards, said: “Concealments are getting more sophisticated with fake walls, compartments and counters, which is why we need the dogs, because officers can’t see the hidden items."
Kent County Council Public Health and Trading Standards has develped a “roadshow” working with BWY Canine LTD, Kent Police, Kent Fire and Rescue Service, NHS Stop Smoking and KCC Wardens.
While some staff spend the day at a trailer in a public place, chatting to residents and demonstrating how the dogs do their job, others raid properties and recover illegal tobacco products.
Mr Whiddett continued: “The roadshow has three key messages. Firstly, illicit tobacco requires organised transport and supply networks to bring it into the country, which means organised crime comes into a community, the sales funding other criminal activity at the expense of the local community and economy.
"Also, the cheap price of illegal tobacco means it is likely to be sold to children.
"And finally, illegal tobacco undermines current smokers' attempts to quit. The roadshow is there so members of the public can talk to any of the partners about illegal tobacco and receive help on how to quit smoking if they want to.
"Sometimes the public have provided very good information on where illegal tobacco is within the community and this has helped with the enforcement work that is carried out.”
Kent County Council says illegal tobacco can be fake products, smuggled genuine products or brands specifically made for the illegal tobacco market.
A spokesman said: "Suppliers of illegal tobacco are often linked to drug dealing, people trafficking and even terrorism."
Illegal cigarettes can also contain ingredients that are worse for a person's health than smoking tobacco.
The team plans to take the roadshow into schools to spread the message to youngsters.
Phoebe has found more than £7 million pounds worth of illegal tobacco during her five-year career.
The two other dogs, Poppy and Milo, are being trained by Mr Phillips to do the same job as their furry friends.