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21 Or Bust - New ID Checks For Young Looking Drinkers
Friday 29th July, 2005

A major crackdown on underage drinking in Wigan gets underway today as new research reveals that 58 per cent of local 14-17 year olds illegally drink alcohol each week.

The two-month enforcement campaign is being driven locally by Wigan council's Trading Standards team and will see anyone who looks under 21 challenged to prove their age when buying alcohol.

Retailers and licensees who fail to make the checks which replace the traditional practice of checking the age of customers who look under 18 may lose the defence of having taken reasonable steps to prevent underage sales if prosecuted.

The move has been prompted by a survey of nearly 13,000 teenagers across the North West, which shows that 40 per cent of underage drinkers buy their own alcohol most often from off licenses, pubs and clubs.

The results in Wigan show that 58 per cent of under 18s drink alcohol at least once a week, 23 per cent one to two times a month, 13 per cent drink it only once every two to 12 months and just six per cent never drink alcohol. The survey also shows that 35 per cent of young people in the borough claim to buy their own alcohol.

Wigan Council's Cabinet Member for Community Safety Cllr Keith Cunliffe said:

"In Wigan we are well aware of the misery that can be caused through underage drinking.

"Not only are young people putting their health at risk through alcohol abuse but they are more likely to become involved in anti-social behaviour while under the influence of alcohol.

"This type of anti-social behaviour can plague entire communities and impact on the quality of life of decent, hardworking families. It can also represent a significant drain on police and council resources."

Cllr Cunliffe added:

"We have been tackling the menace of underage drinking in a number of different ways. Trading Standards has been at the forefront of this by sending the message to the licensed trade that selling alcohol to children will not be tolerated."

Penalties have already been introduced to try and curb underage alcohol sales. Retailers face being fined up to 1,000 if caught selling alcohol to minors and having their alcohol license revoked. Young people caught drinking alcohol could be issued with a fixed 50 fine.

Cllr Cunliffe added:

"In Wigan we are lucky to have support and co-operation from the licensed trade in this and now the message is being sent to young people that they should not even ask for alcohol if they cannot prove their age because they will be refused."

The campaign comes as the first results are published from the North Wests most comprehensive survey of underage drinking activities. Among the shock findings to emerge across the North West are that:

1. 53 per cent of children aged 14 to 17 say they drink alcohol at least once a week, compared with just 12 per cent who say they never drink
2. 40 per cent of young people claim they buy their own alcohol, despite the fact that it is illegal
3. Of those buying their own alcohol, 70 per cent say they get it from off licenses, 58 per cent from pubs and 40 per cent from nightclubs. One in three claim they have been illegally sold alcohol by supermarkets.
4. 45 per cent of young people say they spend up to 10 on alcohol each week, and 16 per cent say they spend more than 11.
5. The most popular place for young people to drink is on the streets or in parks (29 per cent), followed by pubs (26 per cent) and nightclubs (16 per cent).

The decision to introduce a blanket policy of introducing ID checks for those trying to buy alcohol who look younger than 21 has been made as the North Wests second alcohol misuse enforcement campaign begins. It has been timed to coincide with the start of the school holidays when enforcement agencies expect the number of alcohol related incidents involving under-18s to rise.

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