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Agenda Item No. 7

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection): 17 July 2013

 

Report of the Director of Development Services

 

Under-Age Sales of Alcohol in the Vale of Glamorgan

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To consider access to alcohol for those under the age of 18 and of the actions by Trading Standards to control it.

Recommendation

1.             That the report be noted.

Reason for the Recommendation

1.             To appraise Scrutiny members of the work being undertaken by Trading Standards to combat the sale of age restricted products.

Background

2.             This report will highlight the work of Trading Standards in attempting to restrict the availability of alcohol to those under 18.  The rationale for this work forms part of improving the community by combating anti social behaviour associated with young people.

3.             By law, alcohol must not be sold to anyone under 18 years of age.  It is an offence to sell alcohol to a person over 18 if you know that it is being purchased for a person under the age of 18.  Furthermore a person under the age of 18 working at a premises which is licensed to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises cannot sell alcohol unless the sale is approved by a person over 18.

4.             Young people are less likely to be able to properly assess risks when intoxicated such as drunk driving (or being driven by someone who is drunk), having sex without precautions, walking into roads, and behaving in a criminal or anti-social way that they would not consider when sober.  There are also social harms such as the breakdown of family life and longer term health related issues such as alcoholism and associated problems such as liver disease.

5.             In today’s society we face the problem that getting drunk is glamorised rather than stigmatised.  Britain’s binge culture is growing alarmingly and unfortunately alcohol, relatively cheaper than it used to be, has been also been readily available here in the Vale of Glamorgan.

6.             Research published in 'Alcohol and its impact on the community' report by the Director of Public Health for Cardiff and Vale University Health Board shows that in Cardiff and the Vale restricting alcohol availability is a key area for reducing community harm. In this report, test purchasing is highlighted as being important in both dealing with non-compliant premises as well and reinforcing the importance of compliance to other surrounding licensed premises.     

Relevant Issues and Options

7.             In 2004 the Government published its Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy with one of its key aims to clamp down on sales of alcohol to minors and launched the Alcohol Misuse Enforcement Campaigns (AMEC).  There then followed a series of joint enforcement actions between the Vale of Glamorgan and the South Wales Police.  In December 2005 the Home Office funded a separate Welsh Trading Standards Campaign.  Sine then, Trading Standards has been actively involved year on year in the test purchasing of alcohol.

8.             In 2011, The Vale of Glamorgan Council's Youth Service conducted a survey of 651 young people aged between 11 and 18 years old.  In this survey they discovered that nearly all young people had tried alcohol with a quarter of those moving towards a pattern of consuming alcohol once a week or more.  The risk age for establishing a pattern of drinking alcohol begins at 12 years.  Units of alcohol consumed peaks at age 17, where young people are drinking on average 22 units of alcohol per person.  This equates to half a bottle of vodka and 2.5 cans of normal strength lager in one session.  This survey also demonstrates that 44% of young people indicated that it was easy or very easy to obtain alcohol.  Over 30% of the young people who drank regularly indicated that they obtained alcohol through proxy sales and direct purchases.

9.             The table below demonstrates a year on year analysis of work conducted by Trading Standards working in partnership with the Police.

 

Year

Number of Test Purchases

Percentage failure rate

2006-2007

62

19%

2007-2008

81

16%

2008-2009

44

2%

2009-2010

59

7%

2010-2011

125

4%

2011-2012

152

14%

 

10.        Since 2010-11 funding has been provided through the Safer Vale Partnership for an increased programme of Test Purchasing work. This has allowed officers to work in partnership with the Police to concentrate on problematic areas and premises and carry out a holistic programme of test purchasing across all the wards of Vale of Glamorgan.

11.        During 2012/13 financial year Trading Standards sustained a programme of Test Purchasing in conjunction with South Wales Police with the help of continued funding through Safer Vale. 12 operations have been carried out with160 test purchasing visits being conducted.  The current percentage failure rate for 2012-2013 is 3.75% which demonstrates an improvement from the previous year.

12.        The table below details the number of operations that were carried out, the principal areas that were targeted during the operations, the number of visits and the number of sales made to our volunteers.  Most licensed stores through the Vale of Glamorgan have been visited and small corner shop type stores, petrol stations though to large supermarkets have been tested.

 

Date of operation

Qtr

No of premises visited

No of sales made

Area

21.06.2012

1

10

0

Barry

22.06.2012

1

10

0

Penarth

22.08.2012

2

10

1

Barry

17.10.2012

3

7

2

Barry

30.10.2012

3

10

0

Penarth/Barry

16.11.2012

3

10

0

Barry

25.11.2012

3

11

0

Penarth

27.11.2012

3

11

0

Barry

16.12.2012

3

8

2

Cowbridge/St Athan

20.12.2012

3

11

0

Penarth

15.01.2013

4

10

0

Rhoose/Llantwit Major

27.01.2013

4

10

1

Rhoose/Llantwit Major

31.01.2013

4

10

0

St Athan/Llantwit Major

12.02.2013

4

11

0

Barry/Dinas Powys

24.02.2013

4

10

0

Penarth

26.02.2013

4

11

0

Barry

Total

 

160

6

 

 

For the financial year, 2012-2013, 3.75% of premises tested failed.  This is a substantial decrease on last year’s statistics.

13.        Following a sale to an underage volunteer, officers from Trading Standards and South Wales Police enter the premise and the seller is identified. In order to issue a fixed penalty notice, the seller has to admit the sale and accept the fixed penalty notice.  In line with current guidance, fixed penalty notices are not issued to premises licence holders or designated premises supervisors.  Alternative action must be considered for these groups.

With all offences in this time period, it was agreed that South Wales Police will issue the fixed penalty notices where appropriate and Trading Standards will lead on any follow up action needed, consulting with South Wales Police where needed.

14.        In all circumstances, the premise licence holder or designated premises supervisor will be advised that a failed test purchase has taken place at the premises.  Formal interviews under the provisions of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 are conducted and the case is then reviewed as per The Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Enforcement Concordant.  The options for concluding a matter are; no further action taken, a departmental warning letter, a simple Home Office caution or prosecution.  Each case is considered on its own merit.

·               Offence 1 on 22.08.2012 (Convenience Store).  A fixed penalty notice was issued to the seller and a warning letter was issued to the Premise Licence Holder.  No grounds to review the premises licence.

·               Offence 2 on 17.10.2012 (Small newsagent/off licence).  No fixed penalty notice issued as licensee sold the alcohol.  Case file submitted for prosecution and review of the licence will be undertaken.

·               Offence 3 on 17.10.2012 (Supermarket).  A fixed penalty notice was issued to the seller and a warning letter was issued to the Premise Licence Holder. No grounds to review the premises licence.

·               Offence 4 on 16.12.2012 (Convenience Store).  A fixed penalty notice was issued to the seller and a warning letter was issued to the Premise Licence Holder.  No grounds to review the premises licence.

·               Offence 5 on 16.12.2012 (Convenience Store).  A fixed penalty notice was issued to the seller and investigations are still ongoing in relation to the business.

·               Offence 6 on 27.01.2013 (Convenience Store).  No fixed penalty notice issued as licensee sold the alcohol and investigations are still ongoing in relation to the business.

In all instances of a failed test purchase, the premises will be visited in a further test purchase operation as soon as possible.  In all circumstances, any infringing business has passed a subsequent check.

15.        The continued high profile presence of both Trading Standards and South Wales Police in conducting these checks has resulted in very low levels of infringement, which is a welcome decrease from last year when 14% of premises tested made sales to underage volunteers.  Both departments also give free advice and guidance to businesses selling alcohol.  Although firms are not failing test purchases that frequently, it would seem that many of their systems need updating and improving.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

16.        The increase level of work in relation to test purchasing has only been achieved through the funding programme administered by Safer Vale.

17.        Enforcement is expensive.  It is largely an out of office hour's activity.  It requires a large and constantly changing group of under-age volunteers.  It often requires a Police presence and requires test-purchasing money.

 

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

18.        There are no direct implications as a result of this report, although under-age sales of alcohol and the resultant issues arising thereof does negatively impact on community cohesion and community safety.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

19.        Guidance has been sought from Counsel in relation to any human rights infringements and the application of Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIPA). Counsel have indicated that the type of operation currently undertaken do not infringe Human Rights and do not require authorisation under RIPA.

20.        Trading Standards will continue to monitor this situation, should guidance change, new procedures will be implemented.

Crime and Disorder Implications

21.         The implications of this report are that targeted enforcement will help to reduce alcohol related crime in minors within the Vale of Glamorgan.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

22.        There are no implications as a result of this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

23.         Residents and citizens of the Vale of Glamorgan feel safe and are safe within their community.  (CPS8)

Trading Standards will continue to work with partners to reduce underage drinking by targeted enforcement.

Policy Framework and Budget

24.        This report is within the Policy Framework.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

25.        This report is not ward specific.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

Housing and Public Protection

 

Background Papers

Vale of Glamorgan Young Persons Substance Misuse Consultation Report 2011

Safer Vale Alcohol Strategy

Alcohol and its impact on our community (Annual Report of the Director of Public Health 2011)

The Substance Misuse Strategy for Wales

 

Contact Officer

Christina Roberts-Kinsey

 

Officers Consulted

Rob Ingram, Finance

Legal

 

Responsible Officer:

Rob Thomas - Director of Development Services

 

 

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