The Minister for Justice and Law Reform has issued a Commencement Order in relation to Section 14 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008 which gives the Gardai powers to send persons under the age of 18 years into licensed premises for the purposes of carrying out "test purchases" of alcohol. Section 14 will come into operation on 1 October 2010.

When launching the Test Purchasing of Alcohol Scheme yesterday, the Minister said "The Test Purchasing Scheme is intended to protect young people from the all too prevalent reality of alcohol related harm. With the commencement of the Test Purchasing Scheme, the Garda Síochána will have an additional instrument in their overall enforcement programme to combat the sale of alcohol to minors."

The Test Purchasing Scheme will allow the Gardai to send persons who are aged between 15 and 18 years into licensed premises to purchase alcohol. If a sale takes place, the premises concerned will be prosecuted by the Gardai. If convicted, the licensed premises faces a closure order of between 2 and 7 days and/or a fine of up to €3,000 for a first offence. If that licensed premises has been previously been convicted for the sale and supply of alcohol to an underage person, a second conviction can lead to a closure order of up to 30 days and fines of €5,000.

The Department of Justice and Law Reform has also issued guidelines which must be followed when conducting test purchasing of alcohol under the scheme. The guidelines were drawn up in consultation with the Gardai, the Department of Health & Children, the Office of the Minister for Children and the Office of Tobacco Control.

The launch of the test purchasing of alcohol scheme is a timely reminder to licensees to ensure that all staff members are aware of their obligations in relation to the sale of alcohol to underage persons and in particular in relation to the forms of age verification documentation that will provide a defence to a licensee if prosecuted for selling alcohol to underage persons. In this regard we would refer licensees to our January 2010 News Alert which dealt with this issue in detail.