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Underage Sales – Failed Test Purchases

What to do if you are notified by the police that your premises have failed two test purchases in the last couple of months.

The police want to come and meet with you but have already indicated that they are going to ask you to close for an entire week next month. It is one of your busiest times of the year!

Would you know what to do?

Underage selling was taken seriously enough even before the arrival of the new offence of persistently selling alcohol to under 18s. That offence originally related to 3 offences in a 3 month period. Now only 2 are required in 3 months.

What is worse is that the penalties for the offence have recently been increased. They have always applied to the premises licence holder only and necessitate evidence from the police in the form of a fixed penalty notice conviction or caution for each of the sales in question.

There is now no limit to a fine that can be imposed.

In addition the magistrates have always had the ability on conviction to suspend alcohol sales in your premises for up to 3 months.

Whilst what the police are proposing might seem quite unreasonable it is definitely preferable to the above. There is no real defence to the offence of persistently selling and all you can really do is try and mitigate the penalty in front of the magistrates by relying on what are hopefully good due diligence systems.

It may well be that the best deal you can strike here is the one on offer from the police. Nonetheless when you meet with them you should have fully investigated both offences and be able to demonstrate that all staff had been properly trained and that re-training and if necessary disciplinary action has been taken since.

This will provide you with a good negotiating platform and it may be that the police are content at this stage to simply warn you off and state that if it happens again the consequences will be more severe. Unfortunately, the period of any “voluntary” closure is at the police’s discretion. It is worthy of note that the police are able to ask for such a closure for up to two weeks.

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