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Business news, Consumer news

Police and Trading Standards join forces to tackle underage alcohol sales

Posted on: 16 December 2022

Devon & Cornwall Police united with the Heart of the South West Trading Standards and Plymouth City Council Licencing and carried out test alcohol purchases by under 18s in Plymouth.

The operation on 8 December followed incidents over the summer where officers found young people in an intoxicated state in the city centre.

It is against the law for anyone to buy alcohol if they are under 18 or to ask anyone else to buy alcohol for them. You can face up to a £5,000 fine if caught buying or selling alcohol to young people.

Officers from Plymouth were supported by members of the Volunteer Police Cadets (VPC). The team visited ten retailers where the cadets attempted to purchase alcohol.

There is a legal exemption allowing Trading Standards or police officers to send a person under the age of 18 into licensed premises to attempt to purchase alcohol without committing an offence.

Of the ten retailers, only one sold alcohol to a cadet. Police and Trading Standards will be working with the shop to improve their understanding of regulations and ways to verify a shopper’s age.

With the busy Christmas season around the corner, officers from the neighbourhood and child centred policing teams took this opportunity to remind store owners about the laws in relation to selling alcohol to young people.

Inspector Robin Loveridge said: “It is reassuring to see that so many retailers aware of the law regarding underage sales and that their staff have received appropriate training. However, our work doesn’t stop here – we have more operations like this in the pipeline for 2023.

“Whether you’re 17 or 70, alcohol can harm your physical and mental health. Drinking alcohol can put young people in dangerous or vulnerable situations and we want to prevent that. Test purchases like this show the benefit of robust age checking policies like ‘Challenge 25’.”

Challenge 25 is a scheme that encourages anyone who is over 18 but looks under 25 to carry ID when they want to buy restricted products.

Inspector Loveridge also expressed gratitude to the VPC: “The cadets provided an invaluable contribution to this operation. They showed fantastic maturity and we are proud to have them as members of our community.”

Sharon Anderson, Group Manager Intelligence & Investigations, Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service, said: “To protect young people, certain items carry an age-restriction on them. To support retailers, the Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service offers a “No Proof of Age No Sale” toolkit free of charge to retailers who sell age restricted products.

“I’m pleased to say that the majority of retailers have taken measures to ensure anyone that looks under the age of 25 is asked for identification on age-restricted products. There was only a single incident where a sale was made to an underage person.

“We will continue to work in partnership with the police and licencing to carry out test purchases on a regular basis.”

Visit our age-restricted products webpage for our “No Proof of Age No Sale” toolkit and advice and guidance for the sale of products to underage people.

The VPC is a national uniformed youth group for 13- to 18-year-olds and encourages its members to develop good citizenship and participate positively in their communities. There are 17 active units across Devon and Cornwall.

If you are worried about your own or someone else’s drinking, you can call Drinkline for advice. The national alcohol helpline is free and confidential. Call 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9am to 8pm, weekends 11am to 4pm).