Alcohol is probably the main product that people think of when considering age restricted sales. The rules on under age sales of alcohol stem from 1839 and today are consolidated into the Licensing Act 2003.

In summary:

  • It is illegal to sell alcohol to a person under the age of 18 years.
  • It is illegal for a club to sell alcohol to a person under the age of 18 years.
  • It is illegal to knowingly allow alcohol to be sold to a person under the age of 18 years.
  • It is illegal to allow a child under 16 years to be in pubs, clubs or nightclubs unless they are accompanied by an adult.
  • It is illegal for a person under 18 years to buy or attempt to buy alcohol or to consume alcohol in a licensed premises.
  • It is illegal for a person to buy alcohol on behalf of a person under the age of 18 years.
  • It is legal for a person aged 16 or 17 years to consumer beer, wine or cider in licensed premises if it is served with a table meal and the person is accompanied by an adult.
  • It is a defence for the person who sold alcohol to a young person to show that they believed the young person was over 18 and that they had taken steps to verify the persons age or no-one could reasonably have suspected the person was under 18.
  • It is a defence for the shop owner/licence holder (provided they didn't sell the alcohol themselves) to show that they had exercised all due diligence to avoid selling alcohol to children.

All of the above carry an unlimited fine in a Magistrates' Court.

  • It is illegal for a person under 18 years to supply alcohol unless supervised by an adult. The penalty for this offence is a fine of up to £200.
  • If alcohol is sold on two or more occasions from the same premises within a three month period, this offence carries an unlimited fine, or suspension of licence or a closure order.
  • From 26th May 2015, it is no longer illegal to sell liqueur confectionery to a person under the age of 16 years. This offence was abolished by s.70 of the Deregulation Act 2014 

In most police force areas, the offence of selling alcohol to a person under 18 years of age can be dealt with by a £90 penalty notice and in some areas can be addressed by an education scheme - i.e. retraining the offender to prevent further sales.

Find more help and materials for retailers of alcohol here