Problem premises face instant closure by police

06 April, 2007

England and Wales test purchase campaign encourages use of new powers under Violent Crime Act

Police across England and Wales will crack down even harder on "problem premises" in a major Home Office test purchase campaign next month.

The 10-week push, starting on May 4, will see police use new Violent Crime Reduction Act powers to shut down shops for up to 48 hours. Forces will be able to apply for a licence review for shops failing even one sting during the campaign.

It is the first major campaign to specifically target shops selling drink to children. Each participating force will be able to pick up to 20 "problem premises", targeting each with up to five test purchases - once a fortnight - for the 10 weeks of the campaign.

The Home Office will not be able to insist police tell shops if they've failed between test purchases, according to documents passed to OLN. Some 22,700 test purchases could be carried out.

If a business passes three tests in the first six weeks, test purchases will stop, but if they fail any, the stings will continue.

Shops refus ing to accept closure notices could be taken to court to face a maximum £10,000 fine or a six-month licence suspension.

Businesses will not necessarily know they're being taken to a licence review until the end of the 10 weeks.

Police will be offered Home Office funding on the condition they agree to road-test their new powers, according to OLN's sister paper The Morning Advertiser.

Responding to the news, ACS public affairs manager Shane Brennan said the association expected police to use the new powers and that retailers would have to be "absolutely on their guard" during the campaign.

Licensing lawyer Graeme Cushion said retailers would not be able to use due diligence - such as proving they have good staff training - as a defence.

Bournemouth licensing officer Steve Wright said the town was "likely" to get involved in the campaign. A spokeswoman for Leeds police told OLN she would not comment as the campaign has not been officially announced.

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