One in three shops in Barnstaple and Torrington sell to underage drinkers
A THIRD of off-licences in Barnstaple and Torrington sold alcohol to under 18s during a joint operation by Devon County Council Trading Standards Service and Devon and Cornwall Police. During the test purchasing operation on June 12 and 13, six out of 18
A THIRD of off-licences in Barnstaple and Torrington sold alcohol to under 18s during a joint operation by Devon County Council Trading Standards Service and Devon and Cornwall Police.
During the test purchasing operation on June 12 and 13, six out of 18 off-licences that were checked sold to underage volunteers. Two of the businesses had also previously made underage sales in the last three months and formal investigations into these sales are continuing which could result in the businesses concerned losing their alcohol sales licence.
Selling alcohol to a person aged under 18 is also punishable by a fine of up to �5,000.
The operation was part of on-going work with the Devon Alcohol Awareness Partnership, which represents a number of agencies in Devon committed to reducing alcohol-related harm.
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In previous county-wide exercises, approximately 40 per cent of on-licence premises - such as pubs - and 20 per cent of off-licences, have sold to drinkers who were underage.
PC Paul Daw, of Barnstaple Police Neighbourhood Support Team, said there was a "clear link" between underage drinking, antisocial behaviour and violent crime.
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"We have worked hard with all our partners, particularly Trading Standards, in reducing underage sales of alcohol," he said.
"Although the majority of the licensed trade are very diligent and responsible in preventing illegal sales, it is very disappointing that a third of all those premises visited during this operation still sold to a 15-year-old test purchaser.
"This was despite reminding licensees of their responsibilities and actively promoting the Trading Standards 'No Proof of Age - No Sale' staff training pack.
"Devon and Cornwall Constabulary will take robust action against any premises that sells alcohol to underage persons and will work with our partners in reducing alcohol related crime amongst young people in our communities."
The 15-year-old male and female volunteers attempted to purchase alcohol using a nationally-agreed code of practice. The children did not "dress-up" to enhance their age in any way, nor lie or otherwise attempt to persuade an assistant to sell to them. A simple query as to the age of the child or request to see identification would have been enough to prevent any sale.
In the last year, the county council's Trading Standards Service has helped and advised nearly 5,000 businesses in Devon that sell alcohol. Support has included a free film and staff training pack.
Retailers are advised to use the "Challenge 21" scheme to prevent sales of age-restricted goods such as alcohol to young people and some premises are choosing to adopt stricter schemes such as "Challenge 25".
Councillor Roger Croad, the council's Cabinet Member for Environmental and Regulatory Services, said the request to see valid photo identification for anyone who might appear under 21 had to become standard practice.
"Every member of staff responsible for alcohol sales must be prepared to challenge youngsters to prove their age," he said.
"In national surveys, nearly half of the children under 17 claim to drink alcohol at least once a week and a similar number say they buy the alcohol themselves.
"We are determined to see an improvement on these figures in our local communities."
Businesses wanting help and advice on how to avoid selling to those under age, or wishing to obtain a copy of the free 'No Proof of Age - No Sale' staff training CD-ROM should contact the Devon County Council Trading Standards Service Helpline on 01392 381381. General consumer advice is available from Consumer Direct on 08454 040506.
Anyone with concerns about businesses in their area selling alcohol to people under the age of 18, or with problems regarding youth drunkenness, should contact Devon and Cornwall Constabulary on 08452 777444. They can also call the Trading Standards' Confidential Hotline on 01392 381380.