Illicit booze buyers blitz

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WATCHDOGS having been clamping down on those who buy booze for youngsters after latest figures showed the number of under-18s taken to hospital with alcohol-related problems in Wigan is almost twice the national average.

Council trading standards officers said this week that they are targeting those involved in proxy sales – instances where adults buy alcohol for minors.

Following recent prosecutions, two adults spotted buying alcohol for under-18s recently learnt they weren’t above the law.

Both were issued £80 on-the-spot fines by trading standards officers as part of a three-month covert surveillance operation organised in partnership with the police.

In the first instance, a 19-year-old man was caught buying alcohol on behalf of his younger friends in Ashton while a middle aged man in Hindley was spotted buying alcohol for a young girl.

As well as catching adult proxy buyers, officers also issued an £80 fine to a shop assistant in Atherton who was seen selling whisky and cigarettes to a 15-year-old boy. Meanwhile, the licence-holder of the premises is also currently being investigated.

Trading Standards officers conduct regular test purchase operations in shops and off-licenses using teenage volunteers. It is one of many measures adopted by partners across the borough designed to reduce the impact of alcohol-related anti-social behaviour.

Julie Middlehurst, Trading Standards service manager for Wigan Council, said: “Through our programme of test purchases with under age volunteers, we have managed to greatly reduce the number of alcohol sales directly to children, but youngsters still try to get alcohol by asking over-18s to buy it for them.

“These ‘proxy’ buyers should be aware that they are committing a criminal offence and could receive an £80 fixed penalty notice or a fine of up to £5,000 for buying alcohol for under-18s.”