Two shop assistants in Hartlepool convenience stores have received heavy fines for selling alcohol to 15-year-olds in a Trading Standards test purchase - but in both cases the store itself escaped punishment.
The decisions raise fears that staff will refuse to work on tills because of the risk of prosecution.
An employee at Bells Stores in Murray Street and an assistant at the Orchard End store in Rossmere Way were each ordered to pay £250 by magistrates.
However, the local licensing committee decided not to pursue a prosecution against Sainsbury's, which owns the Bells chain, as it was able to demonstrate due diligence in providing the assistant with the appropriate training.
The Orchard End store was ordered to implement a written policy on suspected underage customers, requiring them to provide photographic proof of age, and to train staff in implementing the policy.