SHOPS which sell alcohol and cigarettes to under-age youths in Thurrock are under significant threat of prosecution over the coming weeks.
Thurrock Council’s Trading Standards will be using young volunteers to check whether stores are acting properly with the sale of age-restricted goods.
It is part of an ongoing test-purchasing programme, but Trading Standards is also asking shops and parents to be vigilant and help ensure alcohol and cigarettes are not supplied to under-18s.
While the main emphasis of the programme is on alcohol and tobacco, Trading Standards will also be attempting to buy fireworks, knives, DVDs and similar age-restricted products.
Adults are reminded they are committing an offence themselves if they buy alcohol for or on behalf of under 18s, leaving themselves open to a potential prosecution with a maximum penalty of £5,000.
The young volunteers are trained and supervised in accordance with a strict code of practice.
All shops selling age-restricted products are subject to such inspections.
The penalties for those who sell products illegally range from a fixed penalty fine to a prosecution, and where applicable, a review of their licence which could lead to suspension or revocation of the licence.
Residents are being asked to report any activity concerning the sale of age-restricted goods to minors. Residents and traders are advised to contact Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06. All calls are in the strictest confidence and can be anonymous. The information given to Consumer Direct will be forwarded to Trading Standards.
Cllr Gerard Rice, Thurrock Council’s cabinet member for Public Protection, said: “The council carries out these test-purchases throughout the year, but in the build-up to the festive period and throughout the holiday itself there is a particular focus on the sale of age-restricted goods.
“I would urge everyone to be careful and to be vigilant. If you see someone you suspect is a minor receiving alcohol, cigarettes or any of the other age-restricted goods, please call Consumer Direct as soon as possible so we can take action.”