Warning to retailers after alcohol sold to 15-year-olds

This story was published 21 October 2022

Thirty-nine retailers across North Yorkshire sold alcohol to children as young as 15 in a recent test purchase survey conducted by our trading standards team.

Alcohol purchased during the exercise.

Our public health and trading standards teams work closely to mitigate the dangers of alcohol misuse while ensuring alcohol is not sold to anyone under the legal age of 18. This includes regular test purchasing operations by trading standards to test retailers’ ability to refuse sales to minors. A recent survey found that in 39 per cent of attempts children were able to buy alcohol.

The volunteer helpers who assist trading standards are aged 15 or 16 and have a strict protocol to follow in that they are instructed to tell the truth at all times and to provide identification showing their true age if requested.

Our executive member for trading standards, Cllr Derek Bastiman, said: “This is a reminder of the significant role that local businesses and retailers play in protecting our children’s health by preventing them from accessing alcohol during childhood. Retailers are urged to be aware of the implications of underage sales.’’

It is a criminal offence to sell age-restricted products to minors. To reduce underage sale, trading standards are working with retailers in community alcohol partnerships across North Yorkshire. The partnerships bring together and support councils, police, retailers, schools, health providers and community groups to reduce alcohol harm among young people, improve their health and wellbeing and enhance their communities.

As part of this, trading standards offers retailers support to introduce the tools, processes and training required to build confidence and resilience within their workforce to refuse underage sales.

Cllr Bastiman added: “Initially, we take the route of offering guidance to support retailers rather than rushing to prosecution, but we do expect that guidance to be followed.”

North Yorkshire Police Inspector Martin Metcalfe, who covers Richmondshire, said: “It was very disappointing to see a number of businesses breaking the law and selling alcohol to minors. Underage drinking is one of the main causes of the anti-social behaviour we deal with, so this is very much an issue the police want to work with trading standards and other partners to tackle. I would also like to thank the premises that did pass for their diligence.

“We’ve been doing a lot of work to reduce anti-social behaviour, including launching community alcohol partnerships in Richmondshire and elsewhere in the county. These help keep children safe through education, engagement and, where necessary, enforcement.

“This scheme also offers free online training for off-licences and I would encourage business owners and their staff to use this when it’s offered, to ensure they make the right decisions around the sale of alcohol.”