The Policing and Crime Act changes the definition of the offence of persistently selling alcohol to under-18s from three incidents within a three-month period to two. Falling foul of the law would see a store's licence reviewed and could result in a closure notice being issued.
But in a move that will please retailers, the legislation also gives police wider powers to disperse groups of young people, including those aged 10-15, and to confiscate alcohol from under-18s without having to prove 'intent to consume'. It also introduces a new offence for under-18s of persistently possessing alcohol in a public place.
Home Office Minister Alan Campbell said: "These powers will make it easier for police to take tough action against those groups whose behaviour can affect a whole community."
Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman welcomed the changes. "The long-term solutions to tackling alcohol-related disorder must focus on the individuals who choose to attempt to buy alcohol when they are under 18," he said. "These measures allow the police to take effective action against underage people, and retailers will welcome this approach."
He said the new rules on closure notices should remind retailers to sharpen up their procedures on underage sales.
ACS is aiding this with the release of new in-store material to help retailers train staff to handle incidents where customers become aggressive when refusing a sale. The pack, which will be sent to all full ACS members, includes a booklet on handling confrontation with customers, Challenge 25 posters and a PASS training card to help identify genuine proof of age.
Lowman said: "Too often refusals of sales to young people lead to abuse and intimidation of staff, and we are grateful to our advisor Licensing Solutions for producing excellent guidance to help retailers to handle these situations."