SELLING TO KIDS PROVES COSTLY; Seven Licensed Premises Have Been Caught Giving Alcohol to Minors as Part Of: An Undercover Operation Using Teenagers for Test Purchases

Article excerpt

Byline: Ed Walker

SEVEN licensed premises in Cardiff have been caught selling alcohol to underage customers this year.

The figures, released to the Echo, after an appeal under the Freedom of Information Act, show the city centre as the easiest area for youths to buy drink.

A further seven premises failed undercover test purchasing last year, including two branches of a national supermarket chain.

Inspector Tony Bishop, the man in charge of policing Cardiff city centre, said test purchases were vital in enforcing alcohol laws.

He said: "We do intelligence-led operations on licensed premises. We get told by members of the public, door staff and other licensed premises about problems with alcohol being sold to underage patrons in pubs and from off-licences."

Insp Bishop said the police used 14 to 16-year-olds, who are volunteers, to go into a licensed premises and attempt to purchase an alcoholic drink.

A plain-clothes officer will be in the pub or off-licence observing and, if the teenager is sold alcohol, they will issue the person serving the alcohol with a fixed-penalty notice and action will be taken against the licensee.

Ed Bridges, chairman of Cardiff council's licensing committee, said: "Any premises found to be selling alcohol to underage customers is very concerning to the council. We work closely with South Wales Police and trading standards to take action against any premises caught selling alcohol to minors.

"In the past we have taken action against those caught. Because of the sheer number of premises in the city centre, and the draw it has for young people, it's perhaps not surprising the majority of cases are seen here."

Brewery Brains, which had two of its pubs - The Culverhouse Cross in Ely and the Maltsters in Llandaff - fail test purchases, said it took its responsibilities very seriously.

Retail director Philip Lay said: "We take very seriously our legal and social obligation to ensure that alcohol is not served to people under the age of 18. We also fully support the Challenge 21 initiative, in which customers will be challenged if they look under 21.

"Unfortunately, despite these efforts, the teams of underage people that the police have trained to attempt to illegally purchase alcohol have been served in two of our 120 pubs over the last two years."

Mr Lay said Brains logged each time a customer was challenged for ID and in the past two years 430,000 customers had been asked to prove their age. …