Cracking down on underage drinking in Rutland

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POLICE have continued to crack down on underage drinking in Rutland with a third operation in three months.

On Friday last week, officers carried out another test purchasing operation, visiting eight pubs and one off-licence in Oakham.

They were accompanied by a 15-year-old girl who was told to give her true age if she was asked for her identification.

Three out of the nine premises failed but five pubs, which had failed a similar operation a few months ago, passed.

In December officers visited eight pubs and an off-licence when six premises sold alcohol to a 15-year-old girl.

A test purchase operation in February targeted six pubs in Oakham and Uppingham in February and four failed.

Sgt Matt Ditcher said; “While I am still disappointed that a third of the premises failed I am pleased that all the pubs which previously failed refused to sell alcohol to the underage test purchaser this time.”

He added: “The link between alcohol and crime and anti-social behaviour is well established and it can be particularly problematic if young people under the age of 18 are drinking.”

The crackdown comes as the town’s Pubwatch scheme has folded in its current format.

Pubwatch chairman Richard Burley, owner of the The Odd House Tavern in Station Road, Oakham, said he hoped a new-look, less formal scheme would replace it.

One of Pubwatch’s main weapons was to exclude people from all premises.

However Mr Burley said a decision to end Pubwatch was taken over Christmas by members because not all pubs were enforcing bans. He said: “You’ve got to have full inclusion or none at all. When we started it we were told that everyone would be made to enforce the bans but that never happened.

“All the hard work has gone to waste.

Mr Burley said police test purchase operations had also lost the goodwill from the licensees towards the police and the new-look Pubwatch could have no involvement from the police or Rutland County Council, the licensing authority.

He said police should have worked more closely with landlords before carrying out the test purchases.

In repsonse, Sgt Ditcher said: “It was because members of Pubwatch raised concerns about underage drinking at meetings that we decided to carry out a test purchasing operation in Oakham. We had also received complaints from residents and local councillors.

“We needed to establish the extent of the problem and found that five pubs failed the initial test – some of them were members of Pubwatch. We’ve now worked with those licensed premises to ensure they comply with the law and they have all passed the latest test purchasing operation which shows that they are now operating to the highest standards. Warning the pubs in advance would defeat the object of the operation.

“The link between alcohol and crime and anti-social behaviour is well established and our aim is to ensure Oakham remains a great place to enjoy in the evening. We have been, and remain, fully supportive of Pubwatch schemes.”