A Dorset retailer who sold beer to a 16-year-old test purchaser has escaped
conviction because magistrates ruled the teenager looked over 18.
owner of Bonafide Wines in Christchurch,
sold a bottle of Budweiser to an under-age girl
in a test purchase
by Dorset County Council Trading Standards
at the end of last year.
Officers issued Northeast with an on-the-spot caution, which he refused to sign because he did not want it to go on his permanent record.
The case was heard at Bournemouth Magistrates' Court on Dec 14. Magistrates ruled
Northeast should not be
convicted because all seven shops
in the sting had
served the girl, believing her to be over 18.
Northeast said: " Even the magistrate had to agree the photo offered by Trading Standards did not portray the girl as she
looked on my CCTV. After the
photos were taken the girl added a suit jacket, scarf, big adult handbag and purse. My solicitor was not impressed and asked why photos were not taken after test purchases. No credible answer was given by Trading Standards.
"I had no complaints from the police, licensing or Trading Standards up to the time of incident. Bournemouth CID had used my external CCTV images on a number of occasions for unrelated incidents. So you can see I would consider myself to be a very responsible licensee
who cares greatly about my local area.
"I think Trading Standards have a lot to answer for. On the one hand what they do is necessary, but on the other I think there should be a very clear set of rules for both sides. Test purchasing in my mind is the single reason
I will sell up and leave this trade. A
soundly run store like mine cannot survive on a knife-edge situation ."
Ivan Hancock, divisional manager of Dorset County Council Trading Standards , said he would continue to use volunteers that were 16
old. "Mr Northeast didn't ask her age and he didn't ask for ID. He was prosecuted and he was able to establish a defence. Seven people sold to this person and that weighed heavily with magistrates."
Hancock added that the girl, who was 16
years and two months old
, was not chosen
because she looked over 18. "Officers had no reason to believe
the person looked older than she was."