Some laws seem to be made to be ignored. Talking on the phone while driving is an obvious example. Buying alcohol for children is another.

The problem is that there's a reason why these things are outlawed - in the case of proxy purchasing, it's because giving children alcoholic drinks causes both short-term social problems and long-term health issues.

And if you're a responsible retailer, there's an extra problem - the blame for the damage done by this illegal but ignored supply chain is likely to fall on you.

Last summer, police in Brighton, East Sussex, conducted a test where a 16-year-old girl asked passers-by to buy alcohol for her. A disappointing 11 out of 29 people (38%) made the purchase.

Chief Inspector Pete Mills said of the trial: "Many people think that this is quite harmless, but in fact it is completely the opposite. Not only is it illegal to purchase alcohol for under-18s, it is totally irresponsible."

While the government apparently turns a blind eye, the public seem to understand the real route of supply to children. A Co-op customer survey revealed that 28% of shoppers believed that young people were asking adults to buy alcohol for them, 19% said they thought they were supplied by relatives, and only 17% thought that young people got their alcohol from shops.

Fortunately, local authorities are rising to the challenge, following the example of The St Neots Community Alcohol Partnership (CAP), which saw Trading Standards and police working with store owners to identify proxy purchasers.

Police ran regular patrols of hot spot areas and confiscated alcohol from under-18s, and Trading Standards and neighbourhood policing teams visited schools and colleges to talk about the legal issues surrounding alcohol. Leaflets were distributed to parents at supermarkets.

The organisers said: "Through targeted enforcement and focused education - all of which are cost-neutral and simply re-allocating existing resources - it is possible to effect lasting cultural change and bolster the self-confidence of communities."

It's a model in which responsible retailers can play a crucial part. That's why we're encouraging C-Store readers to talk to their local council and encourage them to implement similar schemes.


What we're calling for:
● Government to accept that adults are the main route of supply to children and for it to introduce measures to dissuade them from buying for kids

● Enforcement of prosecution of convicted proxy purchasers of age-restricted goods

● Investment in community schemes to educate the public on the social costs of supplying age-restricted products to children.
What you can do:
● Contact your local authority or police liaison officer and explain to them how a proxy crackdown would reduce youth drinking and social disorder in your area

● Demonstrate your responsible approach to selling alcohol with a Challenge 25 policy, keep an up-to-date refusals register and carry out ongoing staff training

● Volunteer your knowledge of the local community - including CCTV footage - to help prosecute adults who buy for children.