Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Alcohol and ID checks

This morning's Metro letters page has Carole from Gloucester telling us that it's a "Fact" that it's an offence to purchase alcohol for someone under 18, or to sell it to someone under 18, and that's why a 44-year-old man wasn't allowed to buy alcohol because his wife looked under 25 and she didn't have ID.

This statement about the law is, of course, true. It's also, to some extent, completely irrelevant. It's a law, and laws change. Specifically, that one was changed in the Licensing Act 2003 to make the penalties much harsher and much broader. The penalties on the Standard Scale are up to level 3 (£1000) for the child and up to level 5 (£5000) for the adult.

It's an offence for the supermarket manager, the supermarket cashier, the person buying the alcohol, and the person receiving it - so, potentially, £16k in fines for a single bottle of adult fizzy pop. Doesn't that seem a little... steep? Those are eye-watering penalties for a cashier or bartender, and the fact that a prosecution will almost certainly mean being fired (not to mention the record being retained forever thanks to yesterday's decision), are ample to ruin lives. Is that really justified for letting a kid have a bit of booze?

It's almost as if the government implemented exponentially higher penalties because the "problem" wasn't being addressed sufficiently. Remind anyone of the Stanford Prison Experiment?

Simple fact: teens want to be adults and so will try to smoke and drink. If you let them, there's not really much harm - arguably it's better than letting them turn 18 and go out on a bender; if you try to stop them, you destroy lives for an ideology.

- KoW

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