Published: 21 February 2013
Q: I operate a busy town centre pub but due to other business interests I am unable to be at the premises all of the time. I do have managers who I employ to look after the premises in my absence. There has been a lot of test purchasing in the area over the last few years and we have had a couple of failures. The failures have not occurred when I have been around but rather when I have left the premises in the hands of one of my managers. I have conducted comprehensive training with all of my staff but it seems that when I am not around my managers do not ensure that staff are following their training. My son who is 16 recently suggested to me that he and some of his friends would be quite willing to come into the premises to try to be served in order to test our systems. Am I allowed to conduct my own test purchasing to try and reinforce my staff training? I would obviously make sure that none of my test purchasers actually consume the alcohol.
A: You can conduct your own test purchasing but you cannot do so with children under the age of 18. The reason for this is there is a specific offence under the Licensing Act of sending a child to obtain alcohol. Trading standards and the police have a specific statutory dispensation from the consequences of this section but you do not. If you want to conduct your own test purchasing you would have to use test purchasers who are at least 18 years of age and preferably looked younger than their years. This is entirely satisfactory if, for example, you are seeking to test your staff’s adherence to a Challenge 21 or a Challenge 25 policy. The fact that your under 18 test purchasers did not consume the alcohol would not assist you as an offence would already have been committed if they purchased the alcohol. There are in fact companies out there who will conduct test purchasing operations for you along the lines that I have suggested. Your staff will not have any warning of these and you will get a report explaining exactly what happened. This is a good additional part of your due diligence system.
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