Off-licences fail under-age sales test

OFF-LICENCES in the Barnstaple area were targeted by a Devon Trading Standards test purchasing operation. It was part of a county-wide sweep on under-age alcohol sales. A 17-year-old girl volunteer was sent in to eight off-licences and achieved purchase

OFF-LICENCES in the Barnstaple area were targeted by a Devon Trading Standards test purchasing operation.It was part of a county-wide sweep on under-age alcohol sales.A 17-year-old girl volunteer was sent in to eight off-licences and achieved purchases in five of them.Also in the Barnstaple area, a 17-year-old boy successfully bought alcohol in all eight off-licences he visited.The all-county results showed that more than half of businesses checked sold alcohol to under 18s.The operation was part of an initiative by Trading Standards in conjunction with the Devon Alcohol Awareness Partnership - a range of agencies committed to reducing alcohol-related harm.The exercise was intended to check whether retailers were complying with the Challenge 21 scheme, under which anyone appearing to be under 21 should be asked for valid photo identification.Trading Standards normally use 14 or 15-year-old volunteers for test purchases, but on this occasion the age of the volunteers was raised to make a tougher, more realistic test for licensed premises.Councillor Brian Greenslade, the Leader of Devon County Council, said: "We are working closely with our partner organisations to ensure that supervisors and licensees in all types of licensed premises have effective systems in place to prevent under-age sales."Every member of staff responsible for alcohol sales must be prepared to challenge youngsters to prove their age."We fully recognise how difficult it is for retailers to accurately assess the age of a young person and that is why they should use the "No Proof of Age - No Sale materials that have been freely provided, or a suitable alternative, and ensure their staff follow the simple advice given to prevent further illegal sales."The request to see identification for anyone who might appear under 21 has to become standard practice."Peter Greene, Devon Trading Standards Service Fair Trade manager, said: "This is a very disappointing result. We have been working hard with the retail trade in Devon to reduce alcohol sales to young people."Yet in every case where a sale was made to a 16 or 17-year-old volunteer, staff failed to ask for photo identification."By failing to take this simple precaution and then selling alcohol to under 18s, not only do they commit a criminal offence, they also risk the business losing its alcohol sales licence."The evidence of this survey is that retailers must take their responsibilities far more seriously. On this occasion, our intention has been to highlight the issues involved and we will not be taking formal action."However, where advice is ignored we will consider the use of enforcement action against both retailers and sales staff and will consider applying for removal of alcohol sales licences."Anyone with concerns about businesses in their area selling alcohol to people under the age of 18, or with problems regarding youth drunkenness, should call the police on 08452 777444 (non-emergencies only), or the Trading Standards confidential hotline on (01392) 381380.


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