Ministers this week pledged “tough new measures” to help police deal with young people who drink in unsupervised public places, such as parks and street corners. These will include the power to arrest for “persistent possession of alcohol in public”.
The measures form part of the government’s Youth Alcohol Action Plan, launched this week to reduce alcohol abuse among young people.
David Poley, chief executive of drinks industry self-regulation body the Portman Group, attacked plans to increase police powers. “If the creation of an offence of persistent possession helps police tackle unruly children then fine. However, many police forces are woefully slack at enforcing current alcohol laws.“
“Only ten under-18s were prosecuted for trying to buy alcohol during 2006. Until the police consider alcohol laws a priority, giving them new powers is unlikely to make any difference.”
Poley welcomed a government commitment to continue rooting out off-licences and other retailers selling alcohol to under-age drinkers. “The irresponsible actions of the minority are blighting the reputation of the whole industry,” he said.
A recent under-cover investigation by OLN found that some retailers were not rigorous enough in checking young people for ID.
Home secretary Jacqui Smith said: “Under-age drinking erodes the safety and well being of communities as well as damaging young people's health. It's not right and I am determined to put a stop to it.”
Government measures to tackle youth drinking will also include new guidelines from the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, as well as a campaign to make parents more aware of their responsibilities.
Donaldson said: "Fewer young people now drink, but those who do are drinking more - and they are probably unaware of the damage they are doing to their health.”