Quality statement 2: Under-age sales

Quality statement

Trading standards and the police identify and take action against premises that sell alcohol to people under 18.

Rationale

It is illegal to sell alcohol to anyone under 18. Reviewing licences is a key part of the Licensing Act (2003), and amendments to the Act that came into force in 2012 doubled fines for, and made it easier to shut down, businesses found to be persistently selling alcohol to people under 18. All local licensing authorities should make full use of this legislation to protect children and young people from the risks of alcohol.

Quality measures

Structure

a) Evidence that trading standards and the police are identifying premises that sell alcohol to people under 18.

Data source: Local data collection.

b) Evidence that trading standards and the police are taking action against premises that sell alcohol to people under 18.

Data source: Local data collection.

Outcome

Incidence of licensed premises found to sell alcohol to people under 18.

Data source: Local data collection.

What the quality statement means for trading standards, the police and public health teams

Trading standards and the police work in partnership with public health teams and other responsible authorities to ensure that licensed premises are not selling alcohol to people under 18, and identify and take action against those that break the law. Partnership work can coordinate the approach, improve efficiency and enable sharing of resources.

Public health teams commission trading standards to carry out operations on licensed premises. They can also provide intelligence that identifies licensed premises that need to be reviewed and that supports a licence review.

What the quality statement means for people in the community

People in the community can be sure that trading standards, the police and other agencies (such as public health teams) work together to identify and take action against businesses licensed to sell alcohol (such as pubs, nightclubs, supermarkets and local shops) that sell alcohol to children and young people under 18. This might include reviewing or withdrawing an alcohol licence, issuing fines or, in extreme cases, closing the premises. This should help to stop children and young people buying alcohol and so protect them from the risks of harmful alcohol use.

Source guidance

Definitions of terms used in this quality statement

Identifying premises that sell alcohol to people under 18

Trading standards and the police work together and lead on this, but might also work in partnership with directors of public health and public health teams. In most local authority areas the police tend to concentrate on targeting premises with 'on' licences (that is, allowing consumption of alcohol on the premises), whereas trading standards concentrate on retail outlets selling alcohol. Methods to identify premises that are selling alcohol to people under 18 might include using test purchases by 'mystery shoppers', surveillance or using shared intelligence and the history of the premises. The use of covert investigation techniques by public authorities requires Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) authorisations. Whether RIPA authorisations are needed for conducting test purchases will depend on the operation. [Alcohol-use disorders: preventing harmful drinking (NICE guideline PH24), recommendation 4, adapted by expert opinion]

Taking action against premises that sell alcohol to people under 18

Formal action against premises selling alcohol to people under 18 should follow an enforcement policy and be in line with national codes of practice governing the way that age‑restricted sales are enforced; for example, Better Regulation Delivery Office codes. Responsible authorities, such as public health teams, can take action by requesting reviews of licensed premises and making representations at review hearings. Public health teams can also use available data and work with other responsible authorities to support their case. Licence reviews can result in steps to address the problem (for example, modifying the conditions of the licence or removing the premises' supervisor), or suspending or revoking a licence if sales to people under 18 continue. Other actions that can be taken against premises include fines, advice and warnings, closure notices, issuing cautions and prosecution. [Expert opinion]