House of Lords - Explanatory Note
      
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Session 1999-2000
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Licensing (Young Persons) Bill


 

These notes refer to the Licensing (Young Persons) Bill
as brought from the House of Commons on 12th June 2000 [HL Bill 81]

Licensing (Young Persons) Bill

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EXPLANATORY NOTES

INTRODUCTION

1.     These explanatory notes relate to the Licensing (Young Persons) Bill as brought from the House of Commons on 12th June 2000. They have been provided by the Baroness Thornton, the Peer in charge of the Bill, to assist the reader of the Bill and to help inform debate on it. They do not form part of the Bill and have not been endorsed by Parliament.

2.     The notes need to be read in conjunction with the Bill. They are not, and are not meant to be, a comprehensive description of the Bill. So where a clause or part of a clause does not seem to require any explanation or comment, none is given.

SUMMARY

3.     The Bill amends the law in England and Wales relating to the sale and consumption of intoxicating liquor in cases involving young people under the age of 18. The amendments cover:

  • who can commit the offences of selling alcohol to someone under 18;

  • knowingly allowing alcohol to be sold to someone under 18;

  • purchase by or on behalf of a person under 18;

  • knowingly allowing someone under 18 to consume alcohol in a bar; and

  • knowingly delivering or allowing the delivery of alcohol to someone under 18.

BACKGROUND

Selling to a person under 18

4.     Section 169(1) of the Licensing Act 1964 ("the 1964 Act") makes it an offence for a licensee or his "servant" (ie. his employee) to sell alcohol to a person under 18 in licensed premises; for a licensee knowingly to allow another person to sell alcohol to a person under 18; and for a licensee or his "servant" knowingly to allow a person under 18 to consume alcohol in a bar in licensed premises. Current business practice often means that those selling alcohol are neither the licensee nor his employee - for example, they may be employed

directly by a company which runs a chain of off-licences or pubs. Where this is the case and the employee makes a sale to a person under 18, the employee does not commit an offence and therefore cannot be prosecuted.

Proxy purchase

5.     The current law does not prohibit an adult buying alcohol on behalf of a child in off-licensed premises. This has been referred to as "proxy purchase". The Bill creates a new offence of buying or attempting to buy alcohol on behalf of a child in any licensed premises. A similar offence has existed in Scotland since 1976. A defence is available if the adult had no reason to suspect that the child was under 18. A parent who bought alcohol and subsequently gave it to his child would not commit an offence. The offence covers those who act as the agents of children in contracting sales. A parent contracts the sale in his or her own right, and is not acting as the child's agent or go-between to effect the child's own purchase.

THE BILL

6.     The Bill substitutes new provisions for section 169 of the 1964 Act. The new provisions:

  • redefine who may commit the offences of:

  • selling or knowingly allowing the sale of alcohol to a person under 18;

  • knowingly allowing the consumption of alcohol by a person under 18 in a bar; and

  • knowingly delivering or allowing the delivery to a person under 18 of alcohol sold in licensed premises for off-premise consumption.

  • create a new offence of purchasing alcohol on behalf of a person under 18.

COMMENTARY ON CLAUSES

7.     Clause 1 of the Bill substitutes eight new sections for section 169 of the 1964 Act.

8.     New section 169A makes it an offence for any person in licensed premises to sell alcohol to someone under 18. Currently, under section 169(1), only the licensee or his "servant" can commit this offence. There are defences available depending upon whether a person is charged by reason of his own act, or the act or default of another.

9.     New section 169B makes it an offence for a person in licensed premises, if he works in the licensed premises in a capacity, whether paid or unpaid, which gives him authority to prevent the sale, knowingly to allow another person to sell alcohol to a person under 18. Currently, under section 169(1), only the licensee can commit this offence. As the offence can only be committed "knowingly", the new section provides no defence to the offence.

10.     New section 169C retains the offence under 169(2) for a person under 18 to buy, or attempt to buy, alcohol in licensed premises. The section also maintains the offence currently contained in section 169(3) of purchasing alcohol for consumption in a bar in licensed premises by a person under 18. A new subsection also creates a new offence of buying or attempting to buy alcohol on behalf of a person under 18. No offence is committed in this case if the person proves he had no reason to suspect that the person was under 18. This offence has been referred to in debates in the House of Commons as the offence of "proxy purchase." No offence would be committed by a parent who buys alcohol and subsequently gives it to one of his/her children. The new offence catches only those who act as an agent for a child in contracting the purchase.

11.     New section 169D maintains the exception provided by section 169(4) (where the person under 18 is at least 16 and the sale or purchase is of certain kinds of alcohol for consumption at a meal in certain parts of licensed premises).

12.     New section 169E retains the offence under section 169(2) for a person under 18 to consume alcohol in a bar in licensed premises. It also makes it an offence for a person in licensed premises, if he works in the licensed premises in a capacity, whether paid or unpaid, which gives him authority to prevent the consumption, knowingly to allow a person under 18 to consume alcohol in a bar. Currently, under section 169(1), only the licensee or his "servant" can commit the latter offence. The new section provides no defence to the offence.

13.     New section 169F makes it an offence for a person who works in licensed premises, whether paid or unpaid, knowingly to deliver alcohol to a person under 18 where the alcohol is sold in the licensed premises for off-premise consumption. It is also an offence for a person, who works in the licensed premises in a capacity, whether paid or unpaid, which gives him authority to prevent the delivery, knowingly to allow such a delivery by any person. Currently, under section 169(5), only the licensee or his "servant" can commit the "delivery" offence and only the licensee can commit the "allowing delivery" offence. Section 169(7) currently provides an exception where the person under 18 is a member of the licensee's family or his servant or apprentice and is employed as a messenger to deliver alcohol; this exception is extended by the Bill to cover anyone under 18 working in the licensed premises in a capacity, whether paid or unpaid, which includes the delivery of alcohol.

14.     New section 169G maintains the offence of knowingly sending a person under 18 to obtain alcohol sold or to be sold in licensed premises for off-premise consumption (section 169(6)). The section 169(7) exception for messenger boys has been similarly extended as in new section 169F.

15.     New section 169H applies the penalties for an offence under section 169 to the new offences under sections 169A to 169G. The maximum fine is level 3 on the standard scale (currently £1,000). The power to forfeit licences formerly contained in section 169(8) has been adapted to apply to the offences under the new sections. Convictions for offences under section 169, as well as convictions for offences under the new sections, will count for the purposes of triggering the power to forfeit.

16.     Clause 2 makes consequential amendments, adapting references to the existing offences, defences and penalty provisions so as to reflect the new ones.

FINANCIAL EFFECTS OF THE BILL

17.     Widening the definition of those who may commit the offence of selling alcohol to under-18s would mean an increase in prosecutions. The Government is aware of only a few cases where prosecution has not been possible under existing law. The creation of a new offence of buying on behalf a person under 18 is intended to have a strong deterrent effect. The increase in prosecutions is therefore likely to be very small.

EFFECTS OF THE BILL ON PUBLIC SERVICE MANPOWER

18.     The main purpose of the Bill is to deter sales of alcohol to under-18s. There is likely to be a small increase in prosecutions for offences under the new sections, with consequent resource implications for the police, Crown Prosecution Service and the courts, but there are also likely to be some compensatory savings in these areas if fewer young people break the law as a consequence of obtaining alcohol unlawfully.

SUMMARY OF THE REGULATORY IMPACT ASSESSMENT

19.     No Regulatory Impact Assessment has been prepared as the Bill would impose only a negligible cost on business.

COMMENCEMENT

20.     The Bill will come into force two months from the day it is passed.

 
 
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Prepared: 29 June 2000