Test Purchase of Alcohol Powers by Police Update

11 November 2011

The Police Service of Northern Ireland is preparing for the general use of the ‘Test Purchase of Alcohol Powers’ across Northern Ireland.

The powers, which are supported by the licensed trade, are designed to safeguard and protect children enabling police to test purchase at licensed premises that may be selling alcohol to under 18-year-old persons.


Chief Superintendent Peter Farrar explained: “The illegal sale of alcohol to minors can have devastating effects on individuals and the wider community.


“Underage drinking can and often does have serious consequences. Young people can become victims of crime, receive serious injuries from excessive drinking, or can become involved in committing offences fuelled from consuming alcohol.


“Police are committed to protecting communities and young people. The test purchase of alcohol powers will greatly assist in the prevention of the illegal sale of alcohol to children, protecting them and our communities from harm. 


Chief Superintendent Farrar continued: “The test purchase of alcohol scheme is not designed to entrap licensees or their staff into making an underage sale of alcohol, nor is it intended to catch them off-guard.  Rather test purchase exercises are an opportunity for licensees and their staff to fully embrace their responsibilities and ensure that under 18 year old persons are not illegally sold or supplied with alcohol.


“Selling alcohol to under 18 year old persons is a serious offence that could result in a maximum fine of £5000 and/or six months imprisonment upon conviction. In this regard the police have worked very closely with key partner agencies and the retail licensed trade associations in developing the scheme, including Pubs of Ulster and the NI Hotels Federation,” Chief Superintendent Farrar said.


Colin Neill, the Chief Executive of Pubs of Ulster explained: “Responsible retailers have nothing to fear from the PSNI Test Purchase of Alcohol Scheme. Pubs of Ulster fully support the use of test purchasing powers, we have worked very closely with PSNI to ensure the policies and procedures within this area are sufficiently robust and fair for the trade. This includes a requirement for the police to provide advance warning regarding test purchase of alcohol operations that will be taking place in each area over a general period”.


Janice Gault, the Chief Executive of the NI Hotels Federation commented: “Responsible retailing is a key consideration of all NI Hoteliers and is extremely important in preventing underage alcohol sales. The NI Hotels Federation was involved in the development of the scheme including the various safeguards for our members and fully supports the use of the powers.”


A .PDF with full guidance is available to download from Pubs of Ulster HERE.