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Cracking down on underage alcohol sales
Monday 24th September, 2012

Last year, the rate of young people in Wigan Borough admitted to hospital with alcohol-specific conditions was almost twice the national average. 1

So in a bid to prevent alcohol getting into young hands, Wigan Council Trading Standards officers are cracking down on proxy sales – instances where adults buy alcohol for minors.

Following recent prosecutions, two adults spotted buying alcohol for under-18s recently learnt they weren’t above the law. Both were issued £80 on the spot fines by Wigan Council Trading Standard officers as part of a three month covert surveillance operation organised in partnership with Greater Manchester Police.

In the first instance, a 19 year old man was caught buying alcohol on behalf of his younger friends in Ashton whilst a middle aged man in Hindley was spotted buying alcohol for a young girl.

As well as catching adult ‘proxy buyers’, officers also issued an £80 fine to a shop assistant in Atherton who was seen selling whisky and cigarettes to a 15 year old boy. Meanwhile, the licence holder of the premises is also currently being investigated.

Trading Standards officers conduct regular test purchase operations in shops and off-licenses using teenage volunteers. It’s one of many measures adopted by partners across the borough designed to reduce the impact of alcohol-related anti-social behaviour.

Julie Middlehurst, Trading Standards service manager for Wigan Council, said:

"Through our programme of test purchases with under age volunteers, we have managed to greatly reduce the number of alcohol sales directly to children, but youngsters still try to get alcohol by asking over 18s to buy it for them.

“These 'proxy' buyers should be aware that they are committing a criminal offence and could receive an £80 fixed penalty notice or a fine of up to £5,000 for buying alcohol for under 18s."

Councillor Kevin Anderson, cabinet portfolio holder for safer communities, added:

“Adults who buy alcohol for children and young people are acting totally irresponsibly. They aren’t giving any consideration to the long term health risks that alcohol consumption poses to young people, or of the dangers that these young people may become exposed to when under the influence of alcohol.

“Nor are they giving any thought to the impact that alcohol-induced youth-related anti-social behaviour has on their own community, which can be substantial.

“This crackdown sends out a clear message that Wigan Council and our partners will not tolerate adults buying alcohol for young people."

Siobhán Heaton, Wigan Council’s Lead Commissioner for Children's Substance misuse services says:

"Adults who buy alcohol for children are exposing them to a great many dangers. Alcohol in young hands impairs judgement and leaves young people compromised and vulnerable. They are far more at risk of becoming a victim of crime when influenced by alcohol and many admit that alcohol has caused them to behave out of character, for instance having unprotected sex. I wholeheartedly support this campaign and urge any young people who are concerned about the impact of alcohol or indeed drugs on their health to call the Young Person's Drug and Alcohol Team on 01942 777720."

To report off-licences seling alcohol to under-18s or adults engaged in proxy sales, please call the Consumer Helpline on 08454 040506.

If you are concerned about your alcohol consumption, call Wigan Council's Young People's Drug and Alcohol Team - 01942 777720.

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