Teenager receives national award for courageous efforts as a trading standards witness
Paisley school girl Caitlin Fletcher turned into a star witness for trading standards when she was called upon to give evidence in a difficult court case.
Caitlin, 16, has been helping trading standards as a test purchaser for two years to track down traders who illegally sell products such as alcohol and cigarettes to young people who are under age.
She goes into shops to make test purchases and if she is sold goods she should not be allowed to buy because of her age, trading standards can move in and take up the case.
Her courage in a case which proved tough to crack led to her being nominated to be recognised with the Trading Standards Institute’s (TSI) Hero Award – she received the award today at TSI’s Conference in Edinburgh.
Veronica McGinley from Paisley Trading Standards said: 'Caitlin has helped our department with under age sales test purchases for two years.
'Various cases have been dealt with by the courts, but one case involving a particular trader caused numerous delays and difficulties.
'When we finally got to trial it was during the time of Caitlin’s exams and she was fairly nervous and tearful, but decided to go ahead and give evidence for us.'
Caitlin said: 'I didn’t know anything about the award, so I was very surprised and pleased to be nominated. It was quite scary giving evidence in court, as it was not something I had been through before. But to see the outcome and to be congratulated afterwards by the court was nice. Receiving the Heroes award on top of that is really good. Everyone has been very kind and supportive.
'I now want to pass on my experiences to other young people who might be able to help trading standards as test purchasers.'
Before Caitlin’s appearance procurator fiscal for the accused trader put her use as a witness under intense pressure, but despite knowing she would be in for a testing time Caitlin decided that she would go ahead and give evidence.
Veronica said: 'The whole crux of their defence rested on this evidence which alleged that Caitlin had attempted to purchase cigarettes on prior occasions and had produced proof of age at these times.
'However, Caitlin had never been in these particular trader’s premises prior to the evening of the test purchase and is a non smoker.
'Whilst we had prepared Caitlin for appearing in the witness box we had not anticipated that she would be subjected to such blatant lies.'
'In the witness box she coped extremely well with all of these allegations and also a very thorough cross examination and she did so truthfully and with courage. This resulted in the trader being fined £2, 000.'
Caitlin was praised by the court as being a very credible witness and she revealed afterwards that she had been very nervous and upset prior to going to court.
'She found the defence allegations quite difficult and upsetting, but was reassured by the Crown comments at the end of the case,' said Veronica.
'Caitlin has said she would love to work for us again and has also agreed to talk to any of our future test purchase volunteers about giving evidence. She has been wonderful to work with and is a fantastic young person who, I am sure, is going to play an important role in our community.'
Notes for Editors:
The awards ceremony is at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre from 13.00 – 14.00.
For further information, to attend the ceremony or to arrange an interview please contact the Trading Standards Institute press officer Irja Howie on 07780675815or by e-mail on firstname.lastname@example.org
Trading Standards Institute (TSI)
TSI is a training and membership organisation that has represented the interests of the Trading Standards profession since 1881 nationally and internationally. We aim to raise the profile of the profession while working towards fairer, better informed and safer consumer and business communities.
TSI’s members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities and in businesses. We are also supporting the delivery of initiatives such as the advice services Consumer Direct, UK ECC and UK ECCS.
The Consumer Affairs and Trading Standards Conference 2010
The national Consumer Affairs and Trading Standards Conference 2010, organised by the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) is a 'must' for consumer journalists!
The TSI-hosted annual Conference and Exhibition is the leading consumer affairs and trading standards event in Europe.
The 2010 Conference is being held at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre from Tuesday 15 June to Thursday 17 June.
Journalists and photographers are welcome to attend but should contact the press office on 0845 608 9430 to arrange passes.
Please contact the press office should you wish to organise any interviews – an ISDN line is available for pre-booking.
The conference is hosted by TSI chairman David Sanders and the main sponsor is the Electrical Safety Council.
Some 3,000 people are attending the conference, including representatives from local and central government and those interested in fair trading, representatives of business and commerce, together with consumer organisations. This makes it an ideal place for consumer affairs journalists to mingle and make contacts!
17 June 2010