North Herts shops caught selling drink to 16-year-old

THREE shopkeepers were caught by Hertfordshire Trading Standards selling alcohol to underage customers during an undercover operation in North Herts. A 16-year-old girl volunteered to visit five shops last week and attempt to purchase alcohol. She was suc

THREE shopkeepers were caught by Hertfordshire Trading Standards selling alcohol to underage customers during an undercover operation in North Herts.

A 16-year-old girl volunteered to visit five shops last week and attempt to purchase alcohol.

She was successful at three premises - in Hitchin, Letchworth GC and Royston.

Keith Emsall, county council executive member for community safety, said: "It is very disappointing that some licensees are ignoring the law.


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"Underage sales of alcohol are not something that we are prepared to tolerate. Anyone selling age-restricted goods should adopt a Challenge 21 policy - if a customer looks under 21, then they should be asked to prove that they are 18."

Acceptable forms of identification are PASS-approved ID cards, photo driving licences or passports.

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Hertfordshire Trading Standards is investigating the owners of the three premises, who face prosecution and having their licences reviewed.

The maximum fine which courts can impose is �5,000. On-the-spot fines of �80 were also issued by officers from Hertfordshire Constabulary.

"Persistent offenders may have their licences reviewed and maybe even revoked using powers under the Licensing Act, but we hope that operations such as this will serve as a deterrent and offending shopkeepers will buck up their ideas," said Cllr Emsall.

So far this year, 17 per cent of retailers tested have failed a test purchase for alcohol, compared to 21 per cent last year.

The police chief inspector for North Herts, Geoff Camp, said: "The vast majority of alcohol retailers in North Herts are responsible and professional - but these sales highlight some development needs in limited areas of the trade.

"At the same time I take this opportunity to remind retailers and members of the public, in particular parents, about the dangers of proxy purchasing - that is when an adult buys on behalf of an underage person.

"By its very nature this can be more difficult to detect - but it is a criminal offence which Trading Standards, North Herts District Council and the police take seriously. Retailers should maintain awareness and vigilance for this too."

Members of the public can report shops which are selling alcohol to underage customers to Consumer Direct on 08454 040506. Businesses needing advice should contact Hertfordshire Trading Standards' business advice line on 01727 813849.

Hertfordshire Trading Standards is looking for boys and girls aged between 14 and 16 to volunteer for assisting future test purchasing operations. Expenses are paid. Those interested should call 01727 813849.

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