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Underage Sales - Two Caught In Trading Standards 'Sting'
Friday 22nd July, 2005

Consumer watchdogs in Wigan say more work needs to be done with the borough's off-licence trade to clamp down on underage drinkers, following the latest undercover operation.

As part of Wigan Council Trading Standards' ongoing borough-wide campaign against those who sell alcohol to children, officers recently targeted the Orrell/Billinge and Winstanley areas.

The team first visited every off-licence in the area to explain the law to staff and management. The team also offered advice and support on how to ask for proof of age and how to refuse to serve anyone they suspect of being underage.

Trading Standards is targeting each area of the borough in turn and has produced its own eye-catching posters, leaflets and counter displays to be used in off-licences as deterrents against underage drinkers.

After visiting each of the off-licences trading standards officers then took part in an undercover 'sting' operation to make sure everyone was playing by the rules.

The team worked with an underage volunteer who went into the off-licences and attempted to buy alcohol.

The result of the operation saw two out of the 10 off-licences visited sell alcohol to the young volunteer.

Wigan's Chief Trading Standards Officer Alan Blundell said: "An 80 per cent success rate is pretty good and certainly a lot higher than other areas of the country but we would have preferred it to have been none.

"We appreciate that saying no to young people, particularly when they are in a group, can be difficult and often intimidating but we have offered people help with how to do this."

"Whilst we are pleased that so many of our off-licences are playing by the rules there is clearly more work to be done."

Selling alcohol to anyone under 18 can result in prosecution and lead to a 1,000 fine, in some cases the retailer can lose their liquor licence.

Mr Blundell said: "Those off-licences that failed will be dealt with in the first instance under the council's enforcement policy.

"We prefer to continue to work with the off-licences and continue to support them to ensure this does not happen again. However the threat of severe sanctions including prosecution, still remains."

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