Shock trade in underage alcohol sales

By Jonathan BarnesPOLICE have issued a stern warning to “irresponsible” stores that sell alcohol to underage drinkers after an undercover operation produced shocking results.

By Jonathan Barnes

POLICE have issued a stern warning to “irresponsible” stores that sell alcohol to underage drinkers after an undercover operation produced shocking results.

Sgt Phil Defew, of Suffolk police, spoke out after almost 70% of licensed premises targeted across a number of towns and villages in the county sold drink to children - some as young at 14.

He said the stores involved had been served with a formal caution and would face further legal action - including being stripped of their licences - if they continued to flout the law.

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“We hope that these tests will send a clear message to all licensees that we will not tolerate the irresponsible sale of alcohol to underage drinkers,” said Sgt Defew.

“We are extremely disappointed that so many of the stores were happy to sell alcohol to those underage.”

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Boys and girls aged 14 and 15 carried out the test purchases on 24 small stores, off-licences and large supermarkets throughout last month.

The operation was part of an ongoing attempt to tackle alcohol-related behaviour in towns and villages.

The children visited a range of licensed premises in Bury St Edmunds, Stowmarket, Needham Market, Newmarket, Haverhill and selected villages and were able to buy a variety of drinks at 16 of the stores.

Sgt Defew, who co-ordinated the campaign, said: “Some even pointed various 'offers' that would enable them to buy more alcohol for their money.

“We are particularly disappointed as all stores with an off-licence were written to in July to remind them of their responsibilities under the licensing laws and regulations.”

He added: “Those who sold alcohol to the teenagers have been issued with a formal caution and they have been warned further tests may be carried out in the coming months. If they continue to flout the law, further legal action will be taken.

“There are also personal safety issues relating to underage drinkers. Not only on health grounds, but research indicates that you are more likely to become a victim of violent crime whilst under the influence of alcohol.”

Sgt Defew also stressed parents must take responsibility for their children and urged them to be vigilant of underage drinking.

The undercover tests were carried out as part of a partnership between police and Suffolk County Council to reduce the illegal sale of alcohol to children.

Peter Monk, the county council's portfolio holder for public protection, said: “The last thing we want to see on our streets is booze-fuelled anti-social behaviour and we know the sale of alcohol to under-18s is a factor in this.

“We want to send a clear message out to all pubs, clubs and off-licences that we will not tolerate the illegal sale of booze to young people and the drunken behaviour that can cast a cloud over our local communities.''

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