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News - 1 December 2007

Renewed campaign to stop underage drinking

The Government’s campaign to stop underage drinking is gathering momentum once again as we approach the festive season. This time known offenders will be a prime target.

Somerfield in London Road may lose its licence for up to three months having been caught red handed selling alcohol to an undercover 16 year old working with the police. The company was caught repeatedly in previous campaigns.

Premises that have been known to sell alcohol to underage drinkers and routinely breach licensing laws will be targeted by police in a four-week, £250,000 ‘Responsible Alcohol Sales Campaign’ funded by the Home Office.

The campaign, which started on Friday 30 November, is designed to encourage the small minority of problematic and irresponsible venues to comply with the law and with the alcohol industry’s Social Responsibility Standards. It is hoped that this will reduce drunken anti-social behaviour and alcohol-fuelled violence in the run-up to Christmas.

Plain clothed police officers will visit poorly managed premises with a history of alcohol-related violence, crime and disorder. They will be clamping down on underage sales and alcohol-related disorder as well as ensuring alcohol is not sold to customers who have had too much to drink. The campaign will also target ‘proxy sales’ whereby alcohol is purchased for young people by an adult.

Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker said, “With nearly half of all violent incidents involving alcohol, the majority of people who drink responsibly will welcome any police action designed to make our streets safer. We are not spoiling people's fun. We are getting tough with those few irresponsible retailers that continue to flout the law.

"This intelligence-led campaign is firmly focused on the minority of poorly managed premises known to be associated with alcohol-related violence, crime and disorder. I know the alcohol industry has done a great deal recently to train staff and to promote the Challenge 21 policy, and I welcome that. This campaign is designed to complement those efforts by stamping out underage sales and forcing irresponsible retailers to raise their game.”

Police will also be aiming to gather evidence of poor management and a consistent failure to comply with the law. Where such evidence is found it will be used to support a range of further actions to enforce compliance with the law, including imposing licence conditions.

Premises that break the law face potential penalties ranging from heavy fines to the loss of alcohol licences.

The Association of Chief Police Officers lead on alcohol enforcement and Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Chris Allison said, “This campaign is focused on ensuring that those in the licensing trade operate within the law. We have all witnessed the scenes of violence and anti-social behaviour, which occur because people drink too much. This campaign is one of many tactics we will be using in the run up to Christmas to help reduce the crime and disorder associated with the night time economy.”

The campaign is one part of a commitment across Government to address alcohol-related harm through effective education and tough enforcement. This summer over 3,000 off-licences, pubs and clubs were subject to underage test purchase operations by Police and Trading Standards officers. Premises that repeatedly sold alcohol to minors had their licenses revoked.

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