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Underage sales

Information on underage sales for alcohol, cigarettes and AWPs


Police and Trading Standards officers are permitted to send children into licensed premises to attempt to buy alcohol. If you or a member of your staff serves them, the person who does this may receive an on the spot penalty notice or they could be prosecuted.

The prosecution process usually begins with an invitation to attend an interview under caution where you must be legally represented.

A criminal prosecution is worrying enough in itself but may also lead to consideration of an application to review the licence. In some cases, it may also lead to the closure of the premises for a specified period of time. Operators must train their staff in this area, keep records of refusals and take all due diligence precautions possible.

Should premises fail two test purchases in a three month period then you could be prosecuted for “persistently serving alcohol to children” and, if taken to court, could face a suspension of alcohol sales for up to three months and/or an unlimited fine. Alternatively you may be offered the opportunity by the Police or Trading Standards to close for the sale of alcohol for between two days and two weeks (dates to be chosen by the Police or Trading Standards Officer).

Poppleston Allen has produced a training pack and DVD for operators, designed to protect your business from the threat of closure and financial penalties due to repeated underage sales, for just £10.00. Click here for more information about this training pack.


Although you cannot smoke inside licensed premises, a number of premises still sell cigarettes behind the bar. As from 1st October 2011 it was no longer possible to situate cigarette vending machines in public areas. It must be remembered that cigarettes are an age restricted product and as such Trading Standards Officers are entitled to carry out test purchasing operations. It is important to consider what steps you have taken to ensure that no under 18s can purchase cigarettes in your premises.

AWPs (Amusement with Prizes, or Gaming Machines)

Section 64 of the Gambling Act 2005 regulates the use of children in enforcement operations. It allows the Police, Gambling Commission Enforcement Officers and Local Authority Officers to use under 18s in enforcement operations.

The age limits in relation to gambling are complicated, however the important ones in relation to alcohol licensed premises are that children are allowed to play on Category D gaming machines but not Category C, and under 18s are not allowed to participate in any exempt gaming.

It is an offence if a person invites, causes or permits an under 18 year old to gamble, and in pubs to play on a Category C gaming machine or participate in exempt gaming. The maximum penalty is an unlimited fine and/ or 51 weeks’ imprisonment.

A 16 or 17 year old who plays on a Category C machine or participates in exempt gaming is also themselves committing an offence liable to a level 3 fine.

It is a defence if a person charged with inviting, causing or permitting an under 18 to gamble had taken all reasonable steps to determine the individual’s age and they reasonably believed that the individual was not under 18.

Good due diligence would include:

Positioning the gaming machines so they can be supervised.

Training all staff so that similar age identification procedures are applied in relation to gaming machines as they are in relation to the supply of alcohol.

Use of CCTV and clear signage to be displayed near gaming machines that under 18s are not permitted to play.

Keeping records of all training to staff

Serve Legal

Serve Legal provides an independent test purchase service for retailers of age restricted products across the UK to check your staff are checking young people for ID.

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