SUPERMARKET giants have been caught out serving alcohol to children during a covert police operation in Gloucester – while a Polish shop in Barton has been held up as a shining example of best practice.
In a special alcohol purchase test this month, Morrisons in Abbeydale, Tesco Express in Abbeymead and the BP filling station in Barnwood Road all failed to check the age of buyers.
But smaller stores proved more vigilant when tested by police. Polski Sklep in Barton Street was one store to pass with flying colours.
Manager Kaiwan Poore arrived in the country from Iran a decade ago and has been shocked by Gloucester’s underage drinking culture.
He quizzed a pair of youngsters who tried to buy cans of lager in his shop during the police crackdown.
Mr Poore said: “I live in this country so I know what the law is. I need to protect my business, it is not worth the risk for me. I make just a few pence on a can of lager, but the fines are huge.
“Two young boys came in on a Friday night and wanted to buy alcohol. They looked young so I asked them for ID. When they didn’t produce anything I told them I couldn’t serve them. Then two police officers walked in and said it was a test.
“Young people come in trying to buy cigarettes or alcohol three or four times a week. We get children of just 14 asking for alcohol. A bottle of vodka in their hands is dangerous. There should be more checks like this as some businesses will sell to anyone.”
The test purchase operation, on May 16, involved two underage people entering each store and attempting to buy booze. Sixteen premises were visited. Three – Morrisons, Tesco and the Barnwood service station – sold alcohol illegally to an under-18 buyer. Each offender was visited by watching police and hit with a £90 fine.
Sergeant Nik Farmer, licensing officer for Gloucestershire police, said: “Underage drinking gives me real concerns because it exposes that person to greater risks. Getting very drunk away from adult support increases the risk of injury from falls, accidents and unconsciousness. It adds to the chance of becoming a victim of crime, especially sexual offences and assaults. Drunkenness may even lead to committing offences. The message is simple – don’t sell to under-18s or anyone you suspect is providing it to under-18s. I was delighted with Polski Sklep’s positive actions.”
Further tests are planned at retailers across the city over the coming months. Repeat failures could see businesses have their licence to serve alcohol revoked.
A Morrisons spokesman said: “We are very disappointed our procedures were not followed on this occasion, resulting in a failed test purchase. We are currently investigating, with a view to taking appropriate action, to prevent any future reoccurrence.”
A spokesman for BP, which sells goods at the Barnwood Road garage supplied by Marks and Spencer, said: “We are disappointed a member of staff failed the test. We do have a robust training programme for all our 300 stores which is regularly refreshed. Unfortunately, in this incident not all procedures were followed. The member of staff has since received extra training on the regulations.”
A Tesco spokesman said: “We have a strict Think 25 policy in place across all our stores when selling alcohol and are extremely disappointed that this wasn’t observed on this particular occasion. We have taken a number of steps in the store including retraining the team on our policies.”