Belfast Telegraph

Crackdown on underage alcohol sales

Teenagers as young as 15 will be recruited by gardai to target pubs, shops and off licences selling alcohol to underage drinkers, it has emerged.

Senior gardai nationwide are expected to make a hit list of premises known to flout licensing laws.

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern and Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy have announced that the test purchasing of alcohol scheme will come into effect from October 1.

Mr Ahern said the aim of the scheme was not to trap an unwary licensee into committing an offence, but to ascertain whether licensees are complying with the law. The scheme will target premises which have been complained about by members of the public.

Mr Ahern said: "The primary objective of the test purchasing scheme is to enable the gardai, whose task is to enforce licensing laws, to target those premises which are suspected of engaging in illegal sales to young people."

Undercover gardai will watch as the young volunteers - aged between 15 and 17 years and recruited by community officers in youth clubs and schools - attempt to purchase alcohol.

The minister maintained the customers will not be made to look older then their age by their clothes, make-up or jewellery, and trained not to coax or persuade the staff member to make the sale or lie about their age.

"The whole idea is to ensure the young person dose not have to give evidence in court," added Mr Ahern.

A licensee convicted of the sale and supply of alcohol to an underage person can have a closure order imposed on his or her premises for between two and seven days and receive a fine of up to 3,000 euros. Second and subsequent convictions can lead to closure orders of up to 30 days and fines of 5,000 euros.

Commissioner Murphy said: "Consumption of alcohol by young people underage is not only potentially damaging to themselves, and their health, but can also impact on the quality of life of other people in the community who are faced with intimidating or unruly behaviour in public places."

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