A police and Trading Standards purge is calling time underage alcohol sales in Morpeth.
Officers were responding to concerns raised by local residents about under 18s being sold alcohol in the town. Officers from Morpeth Neighbourhood Team have been working with Northumberland County Council's trading standards officers to set up an operation to test whether staff were being careful to make sure that any customers were 18 or older before they sold them alcohol.
In their latest operation on Friday, September 9, a 16-year-old girl acted as a test-purchase volunteer and went into an off-licence in Morpeth asking to buy alcohol. She was not asked for proof of age and was sold cider. Police have swiftly responded and the staff member who sold the alcohol has been hit with a £90 fixed penalty ticket.
Vera Baird QC, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner and chairman of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, said: "This activity demonstrates that our officers are listening to the concerns of local people and through excellent partnership work are proactively pursuing establishments that are selling alcohol without asking for proof of age.
"This work is about protecting young people from accessing alcohol which can make them vulnerable to becoming a victim of crime or to committing antisocial behaviour themselves. I give my full backing to this collaborative approach and I will ensure tackling this issue continues to be a local policing priority."
Wansbeck Neighbourhood Sergeant Mick Aspey said: "We take the issue of premises selling alcohol to children very seriously and we will always act when we have evidence of this. By working with our trading standards partners and test purchase volunteers we can check premises. We will not only take action against any staff members who sell drink to children, but we can also look at the management of the premises and also hold them to account.
"The vast majority of shops and fast food outlets that have a licence in our area do act responsibly and take great pains to ensure their staff comply with the regulations and check their younger looking customers are old enough to buy alcohol. But in cases where their behaviour falls short then we will take action.
"These types of joint test purchase operations will continue to safeguard communities and remind those selling alcohol to make sure they meet their legal responsibilities."
David Sayer, business compliance and public safety unit manager at the council, said: “Officers will not hesitate to take appropriate action against premises license holders who sell age restricted products to children. We appreciate the benefits that partnership working with the police brings. I would like to thank the underage sales volunteers, without whom these test purchase operations would not be possible. ''
If anyone has concerns about underage alcohol sales where they live, they should contact their local neighbourhood policing team on 101.