Page last updated at 10:38 GMT, Wednesday, 9 April 2008 11:38 UK

Police seize teenagers' alcohol

Bottles of alcoholic drink
It was the first nationwide alcohol confiscation campaign

Police confiscated 44,000 pints of alcoholic drinks during a crackdown on under-age drinking in February.

The 25,000 litres of drinks - mainly beer and cider - were seized during a two-week operation involving 39 forces in England and Wales.

It was the largest ever enforcement operation of its kind, with alcohol seized from more than 5,000 youths.

Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker said the public wanted police to "choke" the supplies of alcohol to youths.

The Home Office said information from the 760,000 operation would help target individuals and trouble spots.

Seventy per cent of the drink seized was beer, 15% cider, 5% alcopops, 5% wine and 5% spirits.

Acting on public tip-offs and local intelligence, police officers and Police Community Support Officers approached groups of youngsters in underage drinking hotspots and confiscated alcohol wherever they found it.

The campaign was targeted to coincide with the school half-term holiday in each area.

When police asked the under-age drinkers where the alcohol came from, 70% refused to say, while of the remaining 30% half said they got the drink from a shop.

Under-age drinkers need to understand that there will be consequences for their actions
Shane Brennan, Association of Convenience Stores

Mr Coaker said that confiscating the alcohol was "just one part of our strategy" to address the damage and disruption caused by underage drinking.

"I know the public will welcome police action to disperse groups of threatening youths and choke their supply of alcohol. This campaign will not be the last," he said.

"I also want to remind parents of their responsibility and where poor parenting is identified as an issue I want to see greater use of parenting contracts to tackle persistent underage drinking.

"Police officers tell me that these campaigns yield valuable intelligence about where children get their alcohol.

"With this in mind, I want to send a strong signal once again to those persistent few irresponsible retailers that deliberately sell to under-18s. They will be caught and they will be punished."

'Loophole'

Frank Soodean, a spokesman for Alcohol Concern which campaigns against alcohol misuse, said the government needed to look at a loophole in the law surrounding the sale of alcohol.

Pie chart showing proportion of drinks seized
Kids are smart. They seem to have cottoned on to this loophole
Frank Soodean, Alcohol Concern

"As stores have tightened their sales policies, teenagers appear to be more reliant on a mix of rogue retailers and, increasingly, adults who've either been cajoled or bullied into buying it on their behalf.

"It hardly seems appropriate for an older cousin to get away with a 50 fine when stores face penalties of up to 5,000 for selling drinks to the under-age.

"Kids are smart. They seem to have cottoned on to this loophole."

Mr Soodean added that the figures should also put an end to the stereotype that all teenagers just drank alcopops.

"So much of the industry's self-regulation is based on the false premise that only drinks that have cutesy cartoon characters on their labels should be censured," he said.

"The fact is teens in many cases are drinking exactly the same labels you'd expect a twenty-something to buy."

Shane Brennan, of the Association of Convenience Stores, said young people needed to be made to fear the consequences of their actions.

"Retailers need to take their responsibilities seriously, but young people need to understand that under-age drinking is wrong.

"The act of on-street confiscations is the right thing to do, and it's vital that police target youths with penalties and by taking them back to their parents for a warning.

"Under-age drinkers need to understand that there will be consequences for their actions."

'Targeting retailers'

Chris Allison, deputy assistant commissioner for the Metropolitan Police, speaks for the Association of Chief Police Officers on licensing issues.

He said officers up and down the country were making use of the powers they had to confiscate alcohol from those under the age of 18.

"The results announced today give a clear indication of the issue that we are dealing with.

"We will continue to use these powers, as well as targeting those retailers who still sell to those who are under-age."

A Home Office spokesman said information gathered by police during the operation would help them target individuals and trouble spots in future.


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