Any sale of alcohol to a person under age (18) will put your business at risk. Selling alcohol to a person who is under age by way of a failed test purchase could be detrimental to your business as you may lose your Premises Licence to sell alcohol.
What is a Test Purchase?
Police and Trading Standards officers are permitted to send children into licensed premises to attempt to buy alcohol. This is known as a “test purchase”.
If you or a member of your staff serves that person, the seller may receive an on the spot penalty which is known as a “Fixed Penalty Notice”. The Notice may only be given by a Police Officer in uniform. Similar to a parking ticket, the seller generally has two weeks to pay the fine of £80 (which increases after those two weeks).
It may be that the seller works on the checkout/till and is given the Notice without the knowledge of their Supervisor and/or Manager. It is important to ensure that all staff are encouraged to make you aware of any such situations as a specific offence can be committed which is known as “persistently selling alcohol to children”.
Offence of persistently selling alcohol to children
Should a premises fail two test purchases in a three month period then you could be prosecuted for “persistently serving alcohol to children” and, if taken to court, could face a suspension of alcohol sales for up to three months and/or a fine of up to £20,000. Alternatively you may be offered the opportunity by the Police or Trading Standards to close for the sale of alcohol for between 2 days and 2 weeks (dates to be chosen by the Police or Trading Standards Officer).
Fixed Penalty Notice or Prosecution?
It is not always the case that the person who sold alcohol to an under age person is given a Fixed Penalty Notice. It may be that that Police or Trading Standards could decide to prosecute instead. The prosecution process usually begins with an invitation to attend an interview under caution (PACE) where you must be legally
represented. Hills Licensing can assist you with this process.
Prosecution may also lead to a review of the Premises Licence and in some cases, it may also lead to the closure of the premises for a specified period of time.
How can I ensure that I am prepared?
The best form of due diligence to prevent a failed test purchase is ensure that all staff are trained in the prevention of under age sales. Hills Licensing can offer bespoke training in this area as well as dedicated British Institute of Innkeeping courses to ensure compliance.
Hills Licensing also advises that full and detailed records of all training are kept as well as the use of a “refusals” book which records all refused sales of alcohol as well as other age restricted goods.