Test purchasing catches out retailers
Dated: 16 Apr 2012
Four shops in Gateshead have been caught selling alcohol to an underage volunteer in an Easter school holiday crackdown.
In a joint operation, Northumbria Police and Gateshead Council trading standards targeted five shops where they had been tipped off that alcohol sales to underage customers had been taking place.
Four out of the five stores were caught red handed when a 14 year old female volunteer tried to purchase products that can’t be sold to anyone under 18. The volunteer successfully purchased wine and vodka based drinks with alcohol content of up to 13.5 per cent.
In one of the shops visited, the owner asked the volunteer for identification to prove her age. When she could not produce it, the owner simply told her to bring it in next time and still sold her alcohol.
The five stores targeted in the operation were in the Felling, Deckham and Bensham areas. All of the test purchases took place on April 11. The sellers, owners and licensees of each shop now faces the prospect of a day in court to answer to magistrates.
Inspector Michael Robson said: "Sale of alcohol to people under the age of 18 is of great concern and there is a direct link between this and the levels of anti-social behaviour and crime the residents of our area have to endure.
"I hope this operation helps serve a warning to those who break the law that we are working with our partners effectively to tackle the issue and that those caught will face the consequences."
Gateshead Council environmental health and trading standards manager, Peter Wright, said: “It is quite clear that some retailers do not think that selling alcohol to children is a serious matter. We will always act on information that shops are allowing young people to buy alcohol.
“Shop owners who deliberately break the law when selling alcohol not only risk fines, or even having their license taken away, they inflict damage on their community and on the health of the young people involved too.”
The operation follows a similar operation targeting different stores during the February half term school holidays, in which four more shops were found to be selling alcohol to young people.
Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, said: “We congratulate Gateshead Council on its continued proactive approach to reducing the sale of alcohol to children.
“Although fewer young people are drinking alcohol, those that do are drinking more and more needs to be done to protect them.
“Local licensing teams work hard to prevent people under the age of 18 from buying alcohol, however this investigation shows that instances can still occur.
“One of the growing issues we also face is that most children acquire alcohol through their parents and other adults. They need to be aware of the damage that alcohol can cause.
“Consumption of alcohol at a young age can have a devastating effect on physical and mental development and can lead to a range of health and behavioural issues. This not only leads to problems now but also later in life so it is vital that we highlight the damage that alcohol can cause young people.”