Call for action on underagers

Punitive measures should focus on teens rather than operators

By Dave Hunter

A LEADING licensing lawyer has renewed calls for Scotland’s police and courts to pursue underage drinkers, after figures revealed a relatively small number of under-18s have been prosecuted for alcohol offences in recent years.

Jack Cummins, of Hill Brown Licensing, accused the authorities of giving teenagers “immunity” on alcohol charges, while pursuing legal action against licensed trade operators.
He said that while irresponsible licensees “deserve to be hammered by the courts and licensing boards” the focus on “tackling those who sell or supply drink to under-18s just doesn’t go far enough and does nothing to support conscientious licensees”.
“What’s more, there’s no point in bringing in more legislation to deal with so-called underage drinking if the current laws just aren’t being enforced,” said Cummins.
“I’m sure there are cases where it’s not in the public interest to put a child through the criminal justice system. In fact, there are bound to be circumstances in which the interests of the child require a different intervention.
“But a policy of giving immunity just isn’t acceptable.”
Cummins’ comments come after the Scottish Government revealed the number of charges brought forward under the Licensing (Scotland) Act between 2010 and 2013. The figures showed that although 156 charges were made against people under the age of 18, only four of those cases were prosecuted, and only three convictions secured.
Earlier this year, Aberdeen operator Epic Group won an appeal against a conviction for serving alcohol to two underage people at one of its bars.
At the time, owner Mike Wilson told SLTN: “I think it’s about time that the victim of a crime should be protected, and action taken against the instigator – ie these people who are under 18 going into licensed premises.”