Police forces across the country are calling on local councils to take a tough line and suspend the alcohol licences of stores which fail alcohol test purchase stings.
Forces in Sussex, the West Midlands, South Yorkshire and Lancashire were particularly active in a crackdown last autumn (C-Store, November 17, 2006) which saw 42 outlets fail two or more test purchases.
The purchases were carried out by 15-year-olds under the supervision of police officers. A Tesco Express in Downland Drive, Crawley, West Sussex, was one of only two establishments of the 189 tested to fail three tests in three weeks. It and another Tesco Express site in Worthing, West Sussex, face losing their off licences for up to three months, while a Budgens store in Queen's Road, Brighton, East Sussex, could lose its licence permanently after persistently allowing under 18s to purchase alcohol.
Jean Irving, Sussex police violent crime reduction manager, said: "We are taking a strong stand on this. We are going for temporary licence bans and I think that is more than fair."
She continued: "Our message is that no retailer, whether they are a supermarket or a small convenience store, is above the law. Selling alcohol to under 18s is unacceptable. Those who have failed two or more tests are clearly not showing due diligence or any responsibility to the local community. It's about time they started taking responsibility for their actions.
"In one of the Tesco stores, on all three test occasions our purchasers were asked if they had a Clubcard - but were never asked for proof of age."
A Tesco spokesman said it took the problem of underage drinking very seriously and operated a 'Think 21' scheme in all its stores.
Irving said that other retailers had been very co-operative in supporting the police initiative, including a One Stop store in Shoreham, West Sussex, which failed one test but has now introduced a policy of selling alcohol to over-21s only.