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The British Army has stepped in to defuse local protests after a shop was forced to close when a soldier in full military fatigues was refused a packet of cigarettes.
In what was later described as ‘the result of a genuine misunderstanding’, local protesters descended on the premises and used social media to highlight the shopkeeper’s denial of service – which was initially condemned by the Army.
Sapper Duane Fahy of the 1st Battalion Duke of Lancaster’s regiment was barred from buying cigarettes at Alpha News newsagents in St Helens, Lancashire.
However, it soon emerged that the incident was caused by an honest misunderstanding with regards to trading regulations as the server thought that, along with under-18s, military personnel in uniform could not be served cigarettes.
After initially criticising the newsagents the Ministry of Defence reversed their position, saying: ‘The Army is aware of an incident in which it appears two of our soldiers were refused service in a newsagent due to them being in uniform.
‘This appears to be the result of a genuine misunderstanding for which the business has apologised.
‘The Army condemns anyone who is seeking to exploit this minor incident for their own divisive ends.’
Merseyside police have been called in to investigate various comments made on social media sites regarding the newsagents.
And a spokesperson for the police force said: ‘Police are monitoring the situation and the owner of the business is helping officers with their inquiries.
‘Police are also aware of offensive and threatening comments being posted on social media network sites towards this business.
‘Although police have not received a report of complaint from the shop, a full investigation into the wider comments being made is underway.’