No one is in any doubt that selling alcohol to youngsters is wrong. That boards take the matter seriously is to be commended.
It was the decision to impose a five-day ban on an outlet which, by all accounts, had robust systems in place to prevent the sale of alcohol to young people – after one test purchase failure – that raised eyebrows in the trade.
In overturning that decision, judges said such sanctions should not have been imposed on the “sole basis that one employee had departed on a single instance from the employers’ procedures and instructions”. Vicarious responsibility is “subject to a defence of want of knowledge that the offence was being committed by the employee and the exercise of due diligence,” the ruling said.
The recognition that human error can occur despite robust due diligence has been welcomed by the on and off-trades. And rightly so.
The vast majority of licensees take their responsibilities very seriously and have invested a huge amount of time and money in staff training and other systems to prevent the sale of alcohol to young people.
One can only hope that any future test purchase failures are considered in their wider context.