Police given more powers on under-age drinking

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The Independent Online

New powers aimed at making it easier for police to crack down on under-age drinkers came into force today.

Police in England and Wales will now be able to confiscate alcohol from suspected under-age drinkers without having to prove they intended to consume it.

Officers will also be able to issue "direction to leave" orders to children as young as 10 who are causing trouble in public places.

Previously, these notices could only be given to those aged over 16.

Persistent under-age drinkers face tougher action with the introduction of a new offence for under 18s repeatedly caught with alcohol in a public place.

Shopkeepers caught selling alcohol to under-age drinkers twice in three months will lose their licence after a "three strikes" rule was tightened to "two strikes".

Local councillors will also be given extra powers to tackle problem premises and will be able to call for a review to restrict or remove an alcohol retailer's licence.

Home Office Minister Alan Campbell said: "Alcohol-related violent crime is down by a third since 1997 but we are continuing to take action through a wide-ranging strategy of enforcement and education.

"The majority of young people are model citizens but there are a minority that are not. These powers will make it easier for police to take tough action against those groups whose behaviour can affect a whole community.

"Alongside this we are challenging young people's attitudes about binge drinking. Our Know Your Limits campaign continues to make people think about how much they are drinking."

Schools Minister Vernon Coaker said: "The powers coming in to force today support our work to delay the age at which young people start drinking alcohol. It is right that we give the police tough powers to crack down on the very small minority of young people who are causing problems in their communities.

"We are backing up this enforcement with prevention and support for young people, by providing them with activities and places to go to, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights, so they have positive alternatives to drinking.

"We are committed to helping families work together to build safe and sensible relationships with alcohol, however for the minority of young people still looking to purchase alcohol, these powers give police the ability to take swift action."

Commander Simon O'Brien, head of licensing at the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), said: "The Police Service welcomes these new measures to combat the problem of underage drinkers and those supplying alcohol to them.

"The ability to remove alcohol from under-age drinkers and take action against those who, through vulnerability or lack of personal responsibility, regularly misbehave under the influence of alcohol will assist the police in dealing with the complexities of alcohol misuse and misbehaviour."

The new powers, brought in through the Policing and Crime Act, are part of a wider government strategy to tackle under-age drinking and related crime and disorder set out in the 2008 Youth Alcohol Action Plan.