Shop worker caught selling booze to underage customer in police sting

BOOZE WARNING: Police Community Support Officer Sam Level.
BOOZE WARNING: Police Community Support Officer Sam Level.
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A SHOP worker has been fined after selling drink to an underage customer.

Operation Aranda saw checks made on dozens of East Durham off licences, by a team from Durham Police’s alcohol harm reduction unit and Durham County Council trading standards officers.

Test purchasers, who are all aged under 18, were sent into stores with instructions to buy bottles or cans of alcohol.

While normally in such operations the volunteers must admit their real age if challenged, regulations exist where in certain circumstances they can lie and claim to be 18.

The aim of the operation, which saw 28 County Durham businesses targeted, was to check if staff asked for approved forms of identification and did not rely on what they were told by the potential buyer.

The East Durham visits were made on Friday night.

Eight stores checked in Seaham and Peterlee demanded to see ID, as did a further seven across Thornley, Blackhall, Wingate and Haswell.

However, one store, Thandi News and Wine, in Cowley Street, Shotton Colliery, failed the test by not asking for either age or proof of identification.

Police say there were no Challenge 21 or Challenge 25 posters on show and no training had been given to the shop assistant.

Officers have said there was also no sign of a refusal register, which stores are meant to keep to record instances of under-age youngsters trying to buy drink.

While not a legal requirement, it is recommended as good practice.

The sales assistant was landed with an £80 fixed penalty fine and a follow-up visit will be made.

Police Community Support Officer Sam Level said: “It was a pity that one of the stores failed, but overall we were pleased so many premises did the right thing and asked for proof of identification.

“This is vital, as in real situations young people will sometimes lie to gain access to alcohol, just like our test purchase volunteers did.

“Staff should ask for a photo driving licence, a passport or a card with the Pass hologram.”

Pass is the Proof of Age Standards Scheme, which is approved by the Home Office and endorsed by the Association of Chief Police Officers.

When contacted by the Echo, Kulvinder Singh Thani, owner of the shop, admitted the assistant made a mistake by making the sale and explained she was new.

However, he disputes the claims made regarding the posters and says they are on display, has a refusal book and said the worker had been trained by her previous employers.

He added: “I explained to her that she must please ask for ID because this is an area with a drink problem, but it was a mistake.”

Twitter: @EchoEastDurham