A PEMBROKESHIRE dog handler has received national recognition for his work in tackling the illegal tobacco trade throughout the UK.

Stuart Phillips from Pembrokeshire-based BWY Canine Ltd has received a national commendation by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), the national governing body for trading standards services in the UK.

A shocked Stuart received his award during an illegal tobacco operation with officers from East Sussex trading standards tobacco control team.

Stuart started his dog handling career with the Ministry of Defence Police & Guarding Agency (MDPGA) over 18 years ago and was stationed with the 14th Signal Regiment (EW) at Cawdor Barracks, Brawdy.

In 2009 Stuart formed his own company, and although based in Pembrokeshire, works all over the UK, assisting police, trading standards, Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs and the NHS, by providing them with specialist search dog services.

In the last six years Stuart and three of his tobacco sniffer dogs have carried out over 1000 operations during which Spaniels Phoebe, Scamp and Yoyo have sniffed out over £12 million pounds-worth of illegal tobacco products.

"It's lovely to be awarded this by CTSI," said Stuart. "I enjoy training and working with dogs and to be able to assist law enforcement agencies all over the UK is a huge privilege.

"Criminals sell illegal tobacco at pocket money prices and often target children and young people, which is so wrong.

"The sale and distribution of illegal tobacco is also linked to other criminality and even terrorism, so using my dogs to tackle this very serious problem is hugely important to me.

"Unfortunately, there are hundreds of retails premises around the UK that hide their illegal tobacco products from the authorities, so using Phoebe, Scamp and Yoyo to find their hidden stashes is imperative.

"My commendation is for my dogs really, without them I couldn't do my job".

Anyone with information about the sale and distribution of illegal tobacco can contact the illegal tobacco crime unit via their website www.tobacco-crime-unit.uk or by calling 0333 666 4 999 and giving information anonymously.