Local shops criticise ‘superfluous’ underage sales legislation

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Local shops have criticised ‘superfluous’ underage sales legislation proposed by the Government in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill. The Bill proposes increasing the maximum fine for persistently selling alcohol to children from £10,000 to £20,000. It also increases the length of voluntary closure notice from a maximum of 48 hours to a period between 48 and 336 hours (two weeks).

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Retailers already face a range of penalties if they do sell alcohol to someone underage. These additional penalties are superfluous and distract from the positive partnership making a difference across the country.

“We urge Government to follow their own advice and look at the evidence of what works. More work needs to be done to advocate a partnership approach.”

The Bill also seeks to introduce the power for Local Authority to charge a Late Night Levy to premises in their area selling alcohol between midnight and 6am. The revenue raised can be used to fund policing and other arrangements for the reduction or prevention of crime and disorder during this time.

Lowman said: “There will be some convenience retailers who will be caught under this criteria and will have to pay the late night levy. We will be working with Home Office to ensure that this does end up unfairly penalising retailers who open late at night and offer an important service to their community, without contributing to alcohol-related disorder.”

Other measures in the Bill include removing the vicinity test from licensing applications, making Local Authorities, Primary Care Trusts and Local Health Boards responsible authorities and reducing the evidence threshold. However these measures are significantly less wide ranging than the measures to amend the Licensing Act contained in the initial consultation.

Lowman said: “We welcome the fact that many of those most harmful measures in the initial consultation have not been included in this Bill. The Home Office has clearly listened to the concerns of the trade. We will work with Government to ensure that the measures they do introduce are implemented in a proportionate and effective manner.”