22 December 2009
Devon County Council Trading Standards Service and Devon and Cornwall Police undertook the operations on 5 December in Torrington, Barnstaple, Bideford and Braunton.
Officers and young volunteers visited a total of nine businesses and all refused to sell alcohol to 15 and 16 year old young volunteers.
These results are a welcome improvement on a similar exercise held six months ago when a third of off-licenses in Barnstaple and Torrington failed similar checks.
The operation was part of an ongoing project focusing on the problems caused by the sale of age restricted products to youngsters. In previous Devon exercises, approximately 40% of pubs and clubs tested sold to underage volunteers compared with 20% of high street retailers.
The operation was coordinated through the Devon Alcohol Awareness Partnership, which represents a number of agencies in Devon committed to reducing alcohol related harm.
Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for Environmental and Regulatory Services, said: “In National surveys, nearly half of the children under 17 claim to drink alcohol at least once a week and a similar number say they buy the alcohol themselves. No illegal sale of alcohol to a young person is acceptable.
“We welcome the extra effort and vigilance demonstrated during this exercise by retailers in North Devon, and we will continue to work with them to ensure this improvement is sustained.”
PC Paul Daw, of Barnstaple Police Neighbourhood Support Team, said “The figures clearly show an improvement, with licensee’s becoming much more diligent by refusing to sell alcohol to underage persons. I am pleased that the licensed trade is taking its responsibilities seriously and implementing the measures to prevent such sales.
“We have a duty to protect young people and prevent antisocial behaviour. There is a clear link between anti social behaviour and alcohol use in young people. These operations conducted together with our partners, help reduce alcohol getting into the hands of underage persons.”
Not only is it illegal for a business to sell alcohol to people under 18 years of age, there are also serious consequences for the young people concerned, their families and the communities where they live. Relatively small quantities of alcohol can have significant impacts on the health and wellbeing of young people and excessive drinking can also have serious consequences in terms of their personal safety, with consequent impacts on local communities. Reducing underage drinking is therefore a priority area for the Trading Standards Service and their partners.
In the last year, the County Council's Trading Standards Service has helped and advised all premises selling alcohol and other age restricted products in Devon, including targeted officer advice visits and sending them a free film and staff training pack on CD-ROM called 'No proof of age - No Sale'.
The advice aims to make businesses aware of their responsibilities, such as checking the identification of customers believed to be under 21. Retailers are advised to use the Challenge 21 scheme to prevent sales of age restricted goods such as alcohol to young people and we would also support those premises choosing to adopt stricter schemes such as Challenge 25.