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A new campaign to crack down on under-age alcohol abuse and associated anti-social behaviour has been launched in Knaresborough this week.
North Yorkshire County Council’s Trading Standards and Planning Services are joining forces with the Harrogate and District Community Safety Partnership, North Yorkshire Police, Harrogate Borough Council and local licensees to stop the sale of alcohol to underage drinkers.
The county’s latest Alcohol Respect Campaign (ARC) was launched in Knaresborough Market Place on Wednesday. Similar campaigns have been hugely successful in other areas across North Yorkshire, including neighbouring Ripon.
The aim of the campaign is to cut the supply of alcohol to under 18 year olds, by working with off licences and pub licensees to require young looking customers to produce proof of age and by making adults aware of the consequences of buying alcohol on behalf of youngsters.
Signage in local off licences, shops, and pubs will reinforce the message that only photo Driving Licenses, Passports or PASS approved Proof of Age Cards will be accepted as evidence that customers are over 18 years of age. Anyone who looks to be under 21 years of age will be challenged to produce proof that they are old enough to buy alcohol, with some major off licence retailers going one step further and introducing ‘Challenge 25’.
Police officers will be stepping up patrols of known underage drinking haunts in parks and car parks and North Yorkshire County Council Trading Standards staff will be supporting local retailers to get the message across that adults who buy booze for youngsters are breaking the law themselves and helping to ruin young lives.
The new Policing and Crime Act, which came into force at the end of January 2010, includes provision to tighten up the law on underage sales of alcohol, by giving the Police and Trading Standards Officers the power to close premises which are caught selling alcohol to minors twice in any three month period.
Under the ‘two-strikes’ rule, licensees face fines of up to £10,000 and three-month licence suspensions for selling alcohol to under-18s twice in three months.
County Councillor Clare Wood, Executive Member for Trading Standards, said: “The last thing that we want to see at the moment is businesses closing down. The Alcohol Respect Campaign is about working together with businesses to reduce the sales of alcohol to minors by promoting the ‘Challenge 21’ protocol.
“By making sure that they check the age of those customers who look young, the shops, pubs and clubs are helping to protect the community from anti social behaviour, but they are also protecting themselves and the jobs of their staff.”
She added: “The retail sector is facing tougher times due to the downturn in the economy and local shops serve the needs of local people and provide much needed employment. Whilst the Alcohol Respect Campaign can’t halt the recession, it can support those businesses which want to stay within the law by removing the threat of prosecution and closure by the authorities.”
Inspector Andy Chapman from Knaresborough and Boroughbridge Safer Neighbourhood police said: “Possession of alcohol by young people and the damage and problems this can cause is regularly raised by the community as an issue which they think should be a priority for the police.
“We will be working with Trading Standards to direct patrols in order to seize alcohol being consumed in public places and to take positive action against anyone caught supplying alcohol to under 18s”.