Press Release May 14, 2015

Durham County Council’s enforcement programme for 2015-16 sets out how it plans to tackle sales of age-restricted products such as alcohol, tobacco, spray paint containers, videos and DVDs and fireworks.
The council also enforces age-restricted sales of solvents and glue, knives and access to betting shops and tanning salons.

Durham County CouncilIntelligence gathering will remain at the centre of efforts to tackle underage sales in County Durham.

A report, which was presented to Cabinet last month (April), reveals that the number of complaints relating to illegal sales of age-restricted products recorded by the authority increased by 26 per cent between April 2013 and January 2015.

Most recorded complaints and intelligence were linked to illegal tobacco and underage sales of alcohol.

This rise shows that improved intelligence-gathering networks are working as more people are reporting these issues due to increased awareness, the report says.

Meanwhile, in the last year a dedicated tobacco control team has carried out 12 raids on suspected ‘tab houses’ across the county and seized nearly 40,000 illegal cigarettes along with more than 40kg of hand-rolled tobacco.

Several counterfeit alcohol seizures have also taken place over the last 12 months, including one haul of 330 bottles of vodka from two licenced premises.

The council has also joined forces with police, community alcohol partnerships and local alcohol retailers to launch and carry out Operation ARIES.

The operation aims to reduce the number of sales of alcohol to under 18s and anti-social behaviour as well as to raise awareness of health and risk issues associated with underage drinking.

The report also shows a drop in the amount of test purchases carried out in 2014-15 compared to the previous year and a higher failure rate.

This is due to the quality and quantity of intelligence gathering, which means resources can be targeted at premises where there is already evidence that the law is being flouted.

Anyone caught selling alcohol to children was fined and any premises which failed an inspection were offered free retailer training for their staff. Any premises which failed a second inspection were taken to review, which resulted in tougher conditions on their licences.

As part of the ARIES programme, eight premises out of 12 failed to ask an 18-year-old customer for identification under the Challenge 25 scheme when buying alcohol, the report states.

High-visibility inspection and visits were also carried out in hotspot areas where illegal fireworks are believed to be sold, particularly around Bonfire Night.

The council will now continue to focus on an intelligence-led approach to regulating age-restricted products as part of its enforcement programme for the coming year.

Other actions highlighted in the programme include:

• Widening sources of intelligence in relation to the illegal supply of age-restricted products.
• Continuing to target the supply of illicit tobacco throughout the county.
• Carrying on working with partners to tackle the criminal and wider health issues surrounding the illegal supply of age-restricted products.
• Continuing to use surveillance techniques regarding illegal sales from private homes and via social media.

Joanne Waller, head of environment, health and consumer protection, said: “We work with our partners, such as the police and health agencies, to tackle underage sales and illicit tobacco and alcohol using intelligence supplied to us and these latest figures show these efforts are proving successful.

“We also work alongside various enforcement agencies to deal with problems involving anti-social behaviour and wider criminality arising from the illegal supply of these products.

“By adopting the range of measures outlined in our enforcement programme for this year we are demonstrating our commitment to continuing to tackle underage sales and access to age-restricted products and the problems associated with these.”

Cabinet last month (April) agreed the enforcement programme for 2015-16.


Page added 15th May 2015
Tackling underage sales