Further underage sales of alcohol to children uncovered
Shropshire Council’s public protection service has revealed that two retailers have failed to improve on their recent poor performance, when tested for the second time in recent weeks to determine whether they would sell alcohol to under 18s.
Visits were made to a number of shops that had made illegal sales in February 2014. Of the four that were revisited, two again sold alcohol in the form of cans of lager and cider to a 16-year-old boy. The retailers who sold were in Shrewsbury and Whitchurch. In both cases, the young person was served, without any challenge, by the owner and licence holder of the shops concerned; as a result, they may now face the possibility of losing their licence to sell alcohol.
A further sale was made at a recently-opened off-licence in Albrighton. This premises was targeted following a tip-off from police. On this occasion the owner and licence holder even offered to sell the volunteer a greater quantity of alcohol, as the lager he had chosen was on special offer.
Frances Darling, Shropshire Council’s service manager for safer and stronger communities within the public protection service, said:
“We are alarmed by the significant failures made by the owners and premises licence holders who directly made the sales to our volunteer. Whilst two of the original sellers appear to have learned from their experiences in the last round of test-purchases, the fact that neither of the other two venues that were revisited applied the most basic of checks for identification suggests that they may be unwilling, or unable, to undertake their duties responsibly. For that reason we are investigating the circumstances that have led to these sales and they may find that their licence to sell alcohol is reviewed and potentially suspended, amended or even revoked.
“To also find that a further retailer engaged with our volunteer as he queued to pay for his alcohol and actually offered him twice as much for a bargain price, instead of checking that he was of a legal age to make his purchase, is just quite astonishing. Along with the other licensees who sold to our volunteer, he has been issued with a fixed penalty notice by our police colleagues from the Safer Neighbourhood Teams and warned about his conduct. I cannot stress enough the importance of introducing and implementing systems of work that contribute to and support the key aims and objectives of the Licensing Act 2003, such as the simple task of asking for ID to check the age of any young person who appears to be under the age of 25; the vast majority of retailers are able to do this as a matter of course, and this needs to be delivered 100% across the board. Whilst we are always willing to work with and advise Shropshire businesses to help them trade within the law, there does come a point when an advisory approach is not sufficient, and we have to take a more robust enforcement line to drive home the message that selling alcohol to children is simply not acceptable.”
Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member responsible for public protection, said:
“Holding a premises licence is a privilege, and not an automatic right that is granted just because you are an owner or a manager of a retail premises. The grant of a premises licence carries with it a range of responsibilities, including preventing crime and disorder and protecting children from harm. Both of these core aims are seriously undermined by selling alcohol to children who can become a danger to themselves and others as well as potentially contributing to the anti-social behaviour that harms the quality of life that Shropshire residents are entitled to expect. If retailers cannot be trusted to sell alcohol responsibly, then it is absolutely right that our public protection service should challenge those retailers and their privilege to hold a premises licence to sell alcohol, and to present to councillors the options available to them through licence reviews, including revocation, as a mechanism to prevent sales of alcohol to our children.”
Shropshire Council encourages individuals to contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 06 if they have any suspicions that offences may be being committed. Information can be given anonymously and will always be treated in line with the council’s information governance policies.
Shropshire-based traders who wish to seek further advice on their consumer protection legal obligations or who wish to report any suspicions that offences may be being committed by other businesses can do so by contacting public protection’s business support and locality working team on 0345 678 9000; general business advice and support can be found on the council’s website at http://shropshire.gov.uk/business/.