Smile - you're on camera

19 October, 2007

Trading Standards wants Big Brother surveillance for 'devious' retailers who sell to under-age drinkers

Off-licences should be put under video surveillance to stop "devious" staff selling alcohol to children, according to a senior Trading Standards officer.

Test purchasing does not catch the trade's biggest offenders because they are wily enough to sell only to children they know, according to Brandon Cook, who represents the Trading Standards Institute on alcohol retailing issues.

Cook was responding to the latest test purchasing figures from the Home Office, which have been broadly welcomed by the trade and politicians.

The 10-week national Tackling Underage Sales of Alcohol campaign saw police conduct 7,408 test purchases

in off-licences, with only 14 per cent resulting in a sale. The failure rate is the lowest recorded so far for a national operation, particularly significant as it only included "problem" premises.

But Cook said the results were predictable and

it was time for surveillance to be introduced. "It's got to if we are to achieve what we need to achieve," he said. "There's always going to be a space for test purchasing and testing people's systems but at the same time we've got to address deliberate selling.

"We can use a variety of methods , depending on the area of the shop. CCTV may be in the area already and we can also make use of vehicles and rooms. Very few, almost nil, sold three times and quite clearly the exercise was set up by the Home Office with a view to testing the new

legislation on persistently selling.

"There aren't many traders out there who will sell deliberately to people off the street who are under-age. But there are a number of traders who do persistently sell to young people but they're devious enough to avoid our test purchasing.

"We know from our intelligence that they will sell to people they know from their locality - but I hasten to add they're in the minority."

Market Monitor, page 13.

'Named and shamed' retailers respond

The Home Office published details of 17 retailers who failed three test purchases under TUSAC and faced licence suspensions, reviews or fines. Those contacted by OLN said the results had prompted them to overhaul their store procedures and staff training.

Bradleys Costcutter in Grimsby faced a 48-hour licence suspension in July. Manager Scott Bradley said he had retrained his staff and put in place a strict Challenge 21 policy. "You have to take the negative and turn it into a positive. Retraining has paid dividends and the shop is now in a stronger position," he said. Trading Standards has since carried out four test purchases on the shop and no further under-age sales have been made. Bradley added

he was "embarrassed" to have been named and shamed.

Carrbottom Off-licence in Bradford has almost completed a two-month ban on selling alcohol. The two members of staff responsible for the sale have since been sacked, according to owner Mohammed Mahmood.

Aston Wines in Birmingham is to face a 48-hour suspension of its licence. Owner Lakhbir Kang said: "Our business is on a university campus so it's much harder in that respect. But I appreciate what they're trying to do, it's not easy."

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