Friday, July 07, 2006

Stop Selling Booze to Kids

Back from a cycle ride from Westgate to Minnis Bay along the promenade – it’s after 6pm – and I would like to know who is selling lager to under age kids in the area.

Of late, I’ve noticed “hotspots” of young teenage drinkers (13+ boys and girls) in St Mildred’s Bay, West Bay and Minnis Bay. Fosters is the drink of choice and one group, last month, had about thirty cans of the stuff.

I like a cold Fosters – the amber nectar – like the next man but I draw the line at encouraging children to start drinking it. Councillors, you need to start asking questions, particularly in Westgate ad Birchington, over which Off License may be selling the stuff and to whom.

Thanks to the relaxation of the licensing laws, we’re starting to witness an alcohol crisis in our society and anyone with modest powers of observation will have noticed the difference between last year and this year.

Ed: Here's a thought, as raised by one of our readers. Are the Off Licenses being intimidated into selling to these kids. i.e. their fear of the consequences of saying "No" to groups of teenagers may be greater than their fear of the legal consequences of breaking the law on under-age alcohol sales. What do you think?


James Maskell said...

After trading stands caught that shop in Ramsgate, I would have thought every off licence in East Kent would have ensured they were following the law and more preferably the guidance by the Government and Police, being that the customer must look 21 to be able to buy alcohol. If a customer doesnt look 21, they need ID, and those shops should know which specific forms of ID are acceptable.

The shops should have recently received information stating the potential penalties from selling underage as well as details as to which schemes are accepted in this country. 4 figure fine and/or six months is a possible first offence punishment. A second offence sees you losing your licence. The customer receives no fine/penalty. The shop owner is held fully responsible. I know if I ever sold underage, Id lose my job on the spot. What are those off licence owners thinking?

Chris. said...

I have seen teenagers under age buying alcahole from the off licence in station road Birchington.

I know that often there is only one lady working in there and they go in force and I think she is to scared to refuse to sell to them.

Maverick said...

Time to revoke a licence or two and make an example methinks, and then ---- where are the community wardens to deal with the unruly kids? Tut tut TDC. Not being very effective again!! Do any of our councillors know the number to ring to report anti-social behaviour?

Anonymous said...

I personally hate this 'must look 21' business. The law is that you have to be 18 years old - if you look 18 why should you have to be asked for ID. Its terribly annoying considering the fact that I look young for my age; I will probably be asked for ID until im in my late 20s because of this system.

Dane Valley Ted said...

One of the main problems here in the valley is that in any group of lads-one will be old enough.
As long as that one is prepared to buy for the group the local shop has no say in the matter.
Because these groups have no respect for any laws-it is down to a police presence to deter this problem.

There are never enough police to
cover all areas-it is almost impossible to stop gangs who move from estate to estate from drinking or committing drink related crimes.
If more resources were made available,I am sure that the Police and T.D.C could catch some of the suppliers and if hit with a big fine this could help with the problem.
But I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7.14 - don't be annoyed - be grateful you look young for your age, if you don't drink or smoke excessively you probably always will -
If you have a drivers license or passport then its no big deal to produce it.
Better than the alternative we have now which is gangs of drunk young teenagers roaming the streets causing trouble.
You Mr Anon 7.14 might be their next victim!
Do you prefer that scenario?

James Maskell said...

The "must look 21" advice is actually very sensible, I think. It protects me so that I dont unknowingly sell alcohol to someone who is 16 or 17 but looks 18 or 19 (it happens). If they have to look 21, then its much less likely that I will sell alcohol illegally. Its sometimes very hard to judge somes age when they are in their mid to late teens. I remember being told a year or so ago I looked 17...they were being serious!

I tend to be a bit of a hardarse when it comes to age restricted goods as some customers will know. Yes its an inconvenience to the customer who has to find their passport, driving licence or other approved documents, but to be perfectly honest, I really dont care. Some call it being a jobsworth, I call it ensuring I dont lose my job. I cant get very far with a criminal record...

Anonymous said...

A lot of the problem is that the under age kids will get an older friend to purchase the alcahole for them and often reward him with a coulpe of cans. I can't really see any answer to this problem.

Anonymous said...

anon again!

YOU might not see any answer with this problem, but the Law does. It is AGAINST the Law to Sell to, or supply CHILDREN under the drinking age of 16 with any alcohlic drinks.
Anyone who does so, must accept the consequences of an up tp £5000 fine or Imprisonment. It doesn't matter if you buy it from a shop for them, or give it to them privately.
The answer is, to make a couple of examplery sentences to make the offender realise just what can be done. There are NO deterents at the moment, kids do exactly what they want with very little parental control. The time has come for this couldn't care less attitude, to STOP!

Anonymous said...

I'm the one that signs off with CS (cynical Snob) I'm in my 60's although have been told I'm 77+ by some youngsters. Every time I go into the Garlinge Service station for a bottle of wine I'm asked for proof of age, yet my 14 year old grandson (built like a brick out house and as tall as a door), is never asked either in pubs or off licences. Either I'm a young looking person or my grandson has had a hard 14 years. So I assume its very difficult today to determine ones age nowdays especially if one wears the right clothing.

Anonymous said...

I have rung the police on more than one occasion to report groups of clearly under-aged drinkers in the streets. Each time the response has been "apart from drinking, are they causing any trouble", with the coup de grace "we don't have anyone available". This has nothing to do with Government policy, or Home Office guidelines, but simply the laziness that we are now seeing from the "boys in blue". They often do sterling work, but equally often they don't.

I have seen no increase in this problem - kids drinking - since longer opening hours were introduced last year. The two are entirely unrelated. And remember, the authorities now have tougher powers to deal with licensing infringements, so again, all down to local councils and the police.

worm said...

I live overlooking an open space in Cliftonville where drinking has been a problem for some years, not only under age but also adult drinking of the wino and boozer variety. The only period when it ceased was when the council put a dispersal order under the ASB act. This was following a stabbing. (It wouldn't be BEFORE things got that bad of course.)
Since the dispersal order expired, things have gradually degenerated.
The last three evenings have seen a large group of teens getting s. faced and verbally abusing passers by, rolling around on the ground, screaming, chucking things about and generally making a nuisance. The police, having been called by me and several neighbours reponded by......not turning up, even though the teens were doing more than just drinking.
This morning, the considerable mess they left was cleared up promptly but a few Fosters cans were left behind which I went out to pick up. (not to drink btw) Surprise! These cans did not contain Fosters lager or, thankfully, wee wee, but hard liquor.
There were two older men in their 40's with them and I believe they supplied the booze. If the cops had taken any notice, they could have made a couple of examples as someone above suggested but as usual, they missed the opportunity.
I know they are undermanned and busy and all the rest of it but will it take another stabbing, maybe this time a fatal one before they get their priorities sorted?

Chris Wells said...

To be fair, in my experience, the police try and attend where they can. Community wardens are also a good starting place to track such youngsters and try to move them on. Trading Standards (and Police) do also run undercover sting operations to find shops selling to underage drinkers, and the law has been changed to make the individual staff who serve liable as well as the shop owners - could be why James is such a hard ass!

At the risk of sounding simplistic, we are back again to an old question relating to childrens ages, the freedom they have to wander the streets and their parents ability or willingness to control and have knowledge of their childrens movements. It is easy to blame everyone else in the chain. I know of more than one case where the police have regularly returned a youngster home and found parents who could not care less where the child is or what they are doing. The police are not substitute parents, and do have other things to do as well.

Like in many of the other difficulties raised through this site, the answer is longer, harder and more resource intensive than many of us feel it should be. It requires wholesale changes in social attitudes to parenting and drinking. We have the largest prison population in Europe, and still seem to have the worst anti-social behaviour problems, so perhaps prisonis'nt the answer either. I agree zero tolerence may be a great starting point, but is only a starting point in a very long road.

James Maskell said...

Its true I would be responsible too and fined similarly, though I doubt the regulars would really believe that to be the reason why Im such a hard-ass!

More seriously, the retailers are the frontline in this and the parents and other such adults, MUST be responsible about this. Buying alcohol for those under the age of 18 is illegal.

worm, Id be grateful if you would email me ( with some more detail. Id be more than happy to have a good look at the area and talk to local residents and bring up the concerns of the residents with those responsible. I understand its not my job to do this but the residents need representation and I dont mind filling in for this at all.

Anonymous said...

Chris, you appear not to be applying human nature to the equation. We all need parameters in which to operate. In other words, there needs to be a worthwhile deterrant for bad behaviour. If the penalties meant something other than a pathetic slap on the wrist, those who find the temptation to err so easy, might think twice. If prison meant something a little more unpleasant than the three star hotel which it has become, that also might make a difference.

Chris Wells said...

James, I know where worm is descibing and how and when the dispersal order was lifted. There have always been fears that the summer would bring renewed behaviour problems here, and they will be raised at the r3levant places.

Anonymous of 10-23, i do not control the prison regime, although in spite of all the accusations of soft living, getting caught and prison still remain a deterrent for most to some degree. It should also be remembered that prison is about rehabilitation as well as punishment - has more roles than simply taking offenders off the streets for a while, important though that may be. County Hall at Maidstone has a number of offices that overlook the jail at Maidstone - perhaps a salutary reminder of how one's political career could end - and there are opportunities to observe these happy campers at times. Not sure three star luxury is truly accurate. I do apply principles of human nature, in particular that most prefer order to chaos and need to know the clear difference between right and wrong. I repeat, no easy or swift answers here, requires almost total reworking of some peoples principles adn way of living.

worm said...

James. Thank you for the offer. I am in touch with my local councillor over this issue and am hopeful action may result eventually.
I am not keen to put my location on the web.

worm said...

I am relieved to know the issue will be raised at the relevant places. Perhaps you could inform us where and when?