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Council catches underage alcohol sellers

10 August 2017

Seized alcohol.

Rochdale Borough Council is warning local retailers after two were caught selling alcohol to children during undercover mystery shop.

Two 15-year-old volunteers helped the council's public protection service conduct the 2-day exercise by attempting to buy alcohol from 21 shops across the borough.

The shops, both in Rochdale, sold the volunteers bottles of alcoholic mix without asking for photographic ID to prove their age.

'Retailers have an obligation to trade responsibility'

The Licensing Act (2003) makes it a criminal offence to sell alcohol to anyone under 18.

The council will now investigate the premises to decide whether to formally caution the stores, bring criminal prosecutions or impose a ban on selling alcohol for up to 12 months.

Test-purchasing exercises such as these are conducted on a regular basis for all age-restricted products, as part of the council's responsible retailers scheme, which encourages retailers to help reduce crime, antisocial behaviour and poor health across the borough, which could be related to the use and abuse of age-restricted products. It also aims to give residents peace of mind when shopping and protect them from harm.

In the past year the scheme has conducted 126 test purchases which resulted in 15 illegal sales, 2 formal cautions and 2 written warnings with more actions pending.

'Always check before selling alcohol'

The scheme champions the Challenge 25 policy with traders, which means they are expected to ask for photographic identification from anyone who appears to be under that age or if they are unsure of their age. Sales should only be made once ID has been produced that proves a customer is over 18.

During this round of testing two shops made a sale, 17 asked for photo ID and the remaining two were found to be no longer selling alcohol.

Councillor Jacqueline Beswick, Rochdale Borough Council's cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: "Retailers have an obligation to trade responsibility to protect our young people and communities for the harm that irresponsible drinking can cause. We take the safety, health and wellbeing of our children very seriously and we will not hesitate to take appropriate action against anyone illegally and irresponsibly serving alcohol. Our advice is to check before selling alcohol, ask for age identification and if in doubt refuse the sale. It's better to be safe than sorry."

Most premises are chosen for testing due to previous underage sales reports or complaints of anti-social behaviour and underage drinking. Others are visited because they've not been checked over a period of time or because the premises have changed ownership.

Anyone with information regarding the possible supply of alcohol, tobacco or other age restricted products to underage children can report it via the confidential Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 08454 040506 or online at Citizens Advice.