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Government sets out plan to tackle underage drinking

Published:  23 July, 2008

The Government has introduced its Youth Alcohol Action Plan (YAAP) in its latest bid to tackle underage drinking.

The multi-pronged approach will give police new powers to prosecute under 18s who "persistently" drink in public, as well as giving parents guidance on when and how they should introduce children to alcohol. The government also called on the trade to step up its commitment to stamp out sales to underage drinkers.

The Portman Group and The Wines and Spirits Trade Association (WSTA) have broadly welcomed the plan, but called on police to enforce existing laws to tackle the underage problem.

Michael Thompson of the Portman Group said the police were often "woefully slack" at enforcing existing laws. But conceded new powers might be helpful, provided police take underage drinking seriously.

The new powers will include:

Powers to disperse under-18s who are drinking and behaving anti-socially from any location

Extending the Directions to Leave power to include 10-15 year olds

Extend alcohol arrest-referral pilots so that under-18s arrested for alcohol-related offences benefit from a brief intervention with a trained worker

Implement new legislation to make it an offence for under-18s to persistently possess alcohol in public places

Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, said:

"Tougher enforcement powers are needed to tackle under-age binge drinking but enforcement measures alone are not the solution. We need a culture change about and from parents, the alcohol industry and young people all taking more responsibility."

Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer will be giving guidance to parents in a document in the coming months, including recommendations on when and how to introduce alcohol to under 18s.

And the government has called for off licences to implement Proof of Age Schemes and Challenge 21 measures.