Just eight days after being banned from taking part in the management of any food business because of hygiene offences, a man was seen back running his Leamington restaurant.
Mohammed Muneer claimed he was just there to give the chef a lift home – but further checks on Ali’s Curry House showed he was still involved in running it.
And Muneer (64) of Denbeigh Street, Bordesley Green, Birmingham, has now been jailed after pleading guilty at Warwick Crown Court to contravening a prohibition order.
Judge Sarah Buckingham jailed him for 18 weeks for that offence – consecutive to six weeks of a suspended sentence he was subject to at the time for the earlier food hygiene offences.
William Douglas-Jones, prosecuting on behalf of Warwick District Council said that in 2015 Muneer was convicted of two charges of contravening food hygiene regulations at the restaurant in Bath Street, Leamington, for which he was fined £4,000.
In January last year he was given a 23-week suspended prison sentence for six further hygiene offences following an inspection by the council’s food safety officers.
They had discovered access to a hand-washing sink was partly blocked, indicating staff were not washing their hands, kitchen surfaces and equipment which came into contact with food were dirty, and there were ‘mouldy and sprouting food items.’
In addition to the suspended sentence, magistrates imposed a Food Hygiene Prohibition Order banning him from taking part in the management of a food business.
Just eight days later food safety officers went to Ali’s Curry House to check on it, and became suspicious when they found Muneer alone in the premises with the chef.
He claimed he was only there to give the chef a lift, and he left to get the man he claimed was then the manager.
But when that man attended, he was unable to answer questions about aspects of the business – and when a staff member called out ‘gaffer,’ it was Muneer who tellingly responded.
Although the restaurant was still called Ali’s at the time, there were leaflets for what was to become its new name, the Dama Dam Mast Balti, which had Muneer’s mobile number on them.
In February food safety officer Stuart Murrow walked past the renamed restaurant and saw Muneer working in the premises, and he was again seen working there in March.
The man who had previously been introduced as the manager sought a meeting at which he told food safety officers that Muneer had not signed the lease over to him, which Muneer had given the impression he would do.
And Mr Douglas-Jones pointed out that that man had never paid the staff wages, the landlord, suppliers or other bills – and Muneer, who had continued to pay the staff himself, had changed the name of the business without consulting him.
So officers paid another visit that evening, and found Muneer in the kitchen, while on a further visit he was behind the bar in the restaurant.
He was advised to close the restaurant, and a man called Khan took it over before it re-opened a week later, although the court was told at an earlier hearing that Muneer continued to work there as an employee.
Chloe Ashley, defending, said: “Mr Muneer concedes custody will be at the forefront of the court’s thinking, but the recommendation in the report is one of a community-based penalty.
“Should he be sentenced to custody, there would be a knock-on effect for his wife.”
Miss Ashley said Muneer was no longer working and was receiving £248 a month in universal credit, while his wife works part-time at a school in Bordesley Green, earning £380 a month.
They had no savings, and their only asset was their home, on which they still had a mortgage for which they were paying £445 a month – which his wife would be unable to meet on her own.
But Judge Buckingham commented: “This is a man who has got seven convictions for breaching food hygiene regulations.
“He received the 23-week suspended sentence, and within eight days he was back in that business, running it.”
Jailing Muneer, the judge told him the breaches of the prohibition order and the suspended sentence made it too serious for anything other than an immediate sentence, adding: “It is a flagrant and deliberate breach of a court order.”