Flaws uncovered in test purchase pilot

31 May 2007 by
Flaws uncovered in test purchase pilot

The Scottish Beer and Pub Association (SBPA) has called for a delay in the Scotland-wide rollout of the test purchasing of alcohol by underage drinkers after it uncovered discrepancies in the scheme during a trial in Fife.

The call came after Fife police admitted that test purchases were not conducted at any hotels or restaurants in the area during the pilot scheme, while the initial phase of the trial did not include test purchases on any on-licensed premises.

Police revealed the limits of the pilot only after the SBPA submitted a Freedom of Information request last July.

Patrick Browne, chief executive at the SBPA, said the admission raised "major questions" over the protocols developed ahead of the rollout of test purchasing across Scotland.

"It's now evident that during the initial phase of the test-purchasing pilot scheme when Fife police were criticising licensees for the failure rate in test purchases in Fife, that at this stage no pubs or clubs had actually failed - indeed, they hadn't even been tested," he said.

Browne told Caterer that his members were not aware that certain types of premises were being excluded from test purchasing and there could no longer be confidence in a Scotland-wide scheme if the policing protocols developed during the pilot were unclear.

But Chief Superintendent Andrew Laing of Fife Constabulary defended the pilot.

"I have every confidence that the pilot scheme has confirmed that the tactic is safe, appropriate, fair and will encourage all of those responsible for controlling the supply of alcohol to young people to play their full part," he said.

Fife police said that it was made clear from the beginning that the problem of underage drinking was not coming from restaurants, and that the targets were drink-led businesses.

By Christopher Walton

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