PUBS, supermarkets and off-licences across Limerick are being targeted as part of an undercover garda operation to clamp down on the selling of alcohol to under-age children.
Already, a number of premises in the county have been visited as part of the sting operation.
Under the Test Purchase Scheme, young people, in a supervised garda operation, order alcohol from a licensed premises while an undercover garda observes whether or not appropriate proof of age is requested and whether or not a transaction takes place.
Gardai from the Bruff district carried out a number of these inspections in towns and villages across the county recently including Kilmallock, Galbally and Bruree.
According to Superintendent Alan Cunningham of Bruff garda station, while the majority of the premises visited were compliant with the liquor licensing laws, there were incidences where under-age customers were sold alcohol.
Supt Cunningham will now examine whether the license holders will face prosecution. “A file will be submitted on it and the facts will be looked at. When a file comes in to me, I examine it and decide whether a prosecution is warranted and whether the evidence is sufficient,” he said, adding that there is a heavy price to be paid for license holders who break the law.
Under existing laws a license holder convicted before the courts for the sale and supply of alcohol to an under-age person can have a closure order imposed on his or her premises for between two and seven days and/or a fine of up to €3,000 for a first offence.
The Test Purchase Scheme, Supt Cunningham said, is being implemented in the Bruff district for the first time to combat an increase in under-age drinking amongst young people. “Business people need to make their staff aware of the laws in relation to the sale of alcohol,”Supt Cunningham explained.
“There is a difficulty out there with staff selling to young people and we are trying to curtail that. Obviously, there is a difficulty when a teenager takes excessive alcohol - it can result in teenage pregnancies, it can result in them committing crime and getting arrested. It can lead then to their career being destroyed before they even start in university,” he pointed out.
Gardai are emphasising that it is the responsibility of the license holder to ensure that alcohol is sold within the proper hours and to the appropriate people.
“The message we want to get out to the rest of the publicans and license holders is, talk to staff, make sure they are fully aware of the laws and inform them that the one trusted source of identification when you are unsure of a person’s age or identity is the gardai ID which can be obtained from any garda station for a small fee,” said Supt Cunningham.
For more, see the Limerick Leader, print edition, dated September 1, 2012