Garage fined for underage drink sales

A PETROL station caught selling alcohol to children in a council sting has been ordered to pay more than £4,000 after serving two teenagers lager and alcopops.

A PETROL station caught selling alcohol to children in a council sting has been ordered to pay more than £4,000 after serving two teenagers lager and alcopops.

Suffolk County Council trading standards sent in the two youths to test staff at Tollgate Services on Fornham Road in Bury St Edmunds on May 23.

In one case a 14-year-old purchased a can of strong Belgian lager and later a 15-year-old bought a bottle of Smirnoff Ice - a vodka based drink.

Anthony Elphick director of Neptune Petrol Station Limited, which owns the garage, pleaded guilty to two counts of selling alcohol to underage customers.


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Hugh Rowland, prosecuting for the council, described how the filling station was at the heart of a lengthy undercover operation led by trading standards officers.

He said employee Peter Scott, who sold the drink, had received no training from Mr Elphick on serving alcohol.

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The employee admitted he had signed a form detailing alcohol training he had not received and was issued with a fixed penalty notice of £80.

Roger Brice, mitigating for Mr Elphick, urged the magistrates to be lenient because it had been tough year for the firm, which consisted of the businessman and five other employees.

Mr Brice dismissed Mr Scott's account of receiving no training, and said: “Mr Scott was in no doubt that you cannot serve someone under the age of 18.

“Mr Elphick has cooperated entirely with trading standards and has accepted responsibility - one wonders what more he could have done.”

Mr Brice also said that despite a turnover of £500,000 the petrol station barely broke even last year.

Chairman of the magistrates Muriel Lawrence gave the firm a £500 fine for each illegal sale and ordered it to pay £3,335 in costs to the county council.

Chip Somers, who runs Focus, an alcohol and addiction charity in Bury, said it was important for society to recognise the importance of tackling underage drinking.

And he welcomed any measures which gave the growing problem the attention it deserves.

“There is definitely a growing trend towards people drinking at a younger and younger age,” he said. “The younger they are the more likely they are to develop dependency alcohol in later life.

“We have seen a huge increase in the number of young people presenting themselves for treatment and we are expecting an explosion of this problem in future years.”

Mr Somers said he thought parents condoned drinking at an early age because it is seen as a safer alternative to drugs. And this accelerated a trend for children as young 13 and 14 to start drinking.

He added: “We would welcome anything which gives a strong message that underage drinking is unacceptable and should be taken seriously.”

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