Licensed premises face action

SIX licensed premises could now face prosecution after selling alcohol to underage teenagers.

It follows a joint crackdown by Hartlepool Borough Council and Cleveland Police and involved test purchases undertaken by two volunteers aged 15 and 16, which was aimed at halting the illegal selling of alcohol to children.

During the exercise one off-licence and five on-licence premises illegally sold alcohol to the underage volunteers, while a total of eleven premises were subjected to a test-purchase attempt.

The off-licence is based in the south of the town and the on-licence premises are all located in the town centre.

Council chiefs say all of the premises could now face prosecution as part of the ongoing crackdown on underage drinking and anti-social behaviour.

The council’s senior trading standards officer, Neil Harrison, has urged shop and bar staff to abide by underage sales laws.

He said: “Despite the demand for diligence placed upon businesses by enforcement agencies, the public and the media, many retailers are still failing to abide with underage sales legislation.

“This is extremely concerning especially given that retailers are likely to face prosecution and could have their licence revoked.”

The initiative formed part of National Specials Weekend – a nationwide push to raise the profile of the work of special constables.

Mr Harrison added: “The businesses all failed to challenge the children for proof of age despite the age of the volunteers and the apparent adoption of “Challenge 21 and 25” policies. Such policies require traders to challenge any purchaser who looks like they may be under that age.

“The legislation places a duty upon retailers to take necessary steps in order to ensure that those people who buy alcohol are old enough. Where no such proof is given then a sale should not be made.

“The volunteers used during our operations are carefully selected to ensure that traders should not be in any doubt that they are underage. There are no excuses for a premises failing to ask for proof of age. Underage sales should not be happening.

“Selling alcohol to children is not only illegal – it can also make them vulnerable to harm or exploitation.”

Anyone with information about sales of alcohol to children is urged to contact Hartlepool Trading Standards on (01429) 523362.