Belfast Telegraph

New legislation to crack down on teenage drinkers using bogus ID

By Claire McNeilly

Underage drinkers in Northern Ireland will find it increasingly difficult to get their hands on cheap drink.

New legislation due to take effect today will require young people to show a passport, photocard driving licence or an electoral identity card before they can buy alcohol in an off licence.

The move represents a tightening up of existing laws and it will put the onus on sellers to make sure people are old enough to buy alcohol.

It means that teenagers and young people will no longer be able to hide behind fake ID printed off the internet, while off licences will be required to display notices setting out the offences relating to its sale or purchase for under-18s.

Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland said the new legislation is aimed at protecting young people from the dangers of alcohol for as long as possible.

“Irresponsible price promotions mean that alcohol can now be bought with pocket money, which makes it all too attractive and available,” Mr McCausland said.

“Alcohol is now 62% more affordable than it was 30 years ago and drinking patterns and social attitudes have changed.

“Raising public awareness of the dangers of excessive drinking is important and people need to take personal responsibility for their actions.”

He added: “Ultimately this new legislation is about taking care of the health and well-being of the next generations.”

The Department for Social Development (DSD) said that in 2010, 284 people died directly as a result of alcohol misuse — an increase of around 40% since 2001.

Statistics also showed that in 2010/11 there were over 12,000 admissions to acute hospitals with an alcohol-related diagnosis.

Research has also indicated that it costs Northern Ireland up to £900m every year, with almost £250m of these costs being borne by the health and social care sector.

The introduction of the new ‘proof of age’ scheme tomorrow is aimed at making it more difficult for someone aged under 18 to enter licensed premises and buy or consume alcohol.

Breaches of the law committed by establishments selling alcohol will allow a court, following conviction, to endorse penalty points on their liquor licence or clubs certification of registration.

The minister said that progress had been made with regard to raising public awareness of the dangers of excessive drinking.

“We have recently seen a fall in the proportion of men who drink over the old weekly drinking limit, a fall in the proportion of adults who binge drink, and a decrease in the proportion of young people who get drunk,” said Mr McCausland.

“We have established treatment and support services across Northern Ireland, and led the development of a youth counselling service.

And he added: “Education and information programmes — which provide information for parents and young people — are also being taken forward in schools, clubs and across local communities.”

Background

The problems with binge-drinking on cheap alcohol came under the spotlight after the death of 20-year-old Joby Murphy. The young north Belfast man had been downing £1 vodka shots at a nightclub before he fell into the River Lagan and drowned. In December, Health Minister Edwin Poots said alcohol misuse was one of the main threats to public health. He is carrying out research into the impact of introducing minimum pricing.

Belfast Telegraph

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