Parents face big fines if they let under-18s drink

Home Secretary will announce new plan to stop teens abusing alcohol in public
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Parents will face a £1,000 fine or a community sentence for failing to stop their children drinking alcohol in public, under a Government strategy to cut teenage binge-drinking.

The Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, will announce tomorrow that police are to get greater powers to disperse gangs of drunken youths who gather in public places – and ultimately impose parenting orders on their carers.

The move is part of a wider Youth Alcohol Action Plan designed to tackle the growing menace of alcohol abuse among teenagers. It would radically extend police powers to confiscate alcohol from young people drinking in public places such as bus shelters or parks.

Police from half of the police units in England and Wales seized 21,000 litres of alcohol from young people during a two-week confiscation campaign mounted in February.

At tomorrow's unveiling of the new action plan, ministers from the Home Office, Department of Health and the Department for Children, Schools and Families will propose that for one-off offences, under-18s drinking alcohol in a public place would be moved on, and their alcohol confiscated.

But for repeat offences and incidents linked with disorder, police could apply for anti-social behaviour orders or parenting orders to make adults face up to their responsibilities. Persistent binge-drinkers will be required to attend sessions with trained advisers to face up to the health and other risks of their drinking.

Frank Soodeen of the campaign group Alcohol Concern, said the tougher stance did not get to the heart of the problem. He said: "The kids who tend to drink on the street already have a number of social problems, so criminalising them might not be the best way to tackle the issue."

The action plan will attempt to address concerns about the amount children are drinking. It will lay out proposals to improve the standard of education children receive on issues relating to alcohol, including the messages received in the home.

Ms Smith said parents must help to tackle the bad behaviour of children. "Groups of under-18s drinking in public are an all-too-familiar sight. This type of drinking increases youth anti-social behaviour and crime and puts young people in vulnerable situations," she said.

"These new measures are designed to set clear boundaries and to complement other information the Government is providing for children and parents. I will give police and local partners all the support they need to protect law-abiding citizens and make our public spaces better for everyone."

But the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, Chris Huhne, said the plans were "a rotten substitute for enforcing the laws we have". He added: "Police and councils already have powers to confiscate alcohol, disperse groups, shut irresponsible bars and remove licenses."