Police Scotland have launched a programme of sustained enforcement action in and around Greater Glasgow, no doubt with one eye on the forthcoming Commonwealth Games which the city is due to host in the summer. The programme, named Operation Relay, will run from the 1st April until the 31st May.

A similar approach was adopted by the Metropolitan Police in the run up to the Olympic Games in 2012.

Communities can expect to see high profile police activity with operations targeting drugs, street drinking and youth disorder, bogus callers, proceeds of crime and businesses connected to serious and organised crime. This will include visits to licensed premises, and will involve the carrying out of test purchases.

To ensure that they do not fall foul of any test purchase activity, operators should ensure that they have taken all reasonable steps to uphold the licensing objectives and avoid sales of alcohol (and other age restricted products) to those who are under age.

These steps should include, at the very least:

  • Written evidence that all staff have been trained in the sale of age restricted products
  • Written evidence of any refresher training on the sale of age restricted products
  • Evidence that the premises are adopting an age verification policy (through signage on the shop floor and in staff areas) and that this is understood by members of staff
  • Prompts on tills to remind staff that they are selling an age restricted product
  • Refusals register
  • Proper supervision of sales by those under the age of 18 by members of staff over the age of 18
  • Operators carrying out their own regular independent test purchase exercises in their premises

Superintendent Brian McInulty from Police Scotland has been reported as saying "we have told licence holders that test purchase agents will be sent to their premises and if the premises fail the test, they will be reported…we are doing everything we can to stop children getting alcohol".

In the event of a test purchase failure, given the recent decision on the Lidl case, which we reported on here, it is very clear that the way an operator reacts to a failed test purchase is as important as the steps that they take to ensure that the purchase does not take place in the first place. You can simply not put your head in the sand in the hope that the problem will go away – it won't!

To avoid any possible review, and potential suspension or revocation, of a premises licence, such reactive steps would include;

  • A full and immediate investigation in to the circumstances of the test purchase
  • Possible disciplinary action against the individual who made the test purchase subject to the outcome of any investigation
  • Re-training of all members of staff (which should be evidenced and recorded)