Underage booze crisis

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More than 90 litres of booze has been seized from youngsters on the streets of Leyland and Bamber Bridge.

The problem of underage drinking has become so serious in South Ribble that the number of under 18s being admitted to hospital due to alcohol is now significantly worse than the national average.

Police in the borough have recently confiscated 72 litres of beer and cider and 21.5 litres of spirits from young people in the borough.

One arrest was made for suspected possession of a class B drug.

As part of the area’s first Community Alcohol Network operation, a joint effort between the police, South Ribble Council and Lancashire Trading Standards, officers carried out regular night-time patrols in Leyland town centre and Bamber Bridge over a three- month period, seizing drink from underage boozers and taking children back home to their parents.

Leyland Neighbourhood Policing Sergeant, Janette Bashall, said: “The operation highlighted that those youths who were underage and had consumed alcohol had either obtained it from parents or other family members, or it had been purchased on their behalf by someone over 18.

“There was little evidence of underage sales in the Bamber Bridge and Leyland areas.”

Patrol officers spoke to around 940 children during the initiative, and a total of 11 underage drinkers were either taken home or collected by their parents. Police also issued nine youth referral notices.

During the initiative, officers also worked with local retailers, advising them on sales of alcohol and providing off licences with a dedicated hotline to report any problems or issues relating to underage drinking.

Just over 200 visits to licensed premises were made in Leyland and Bamber Bridge, and test purchases were carried out at a number of pubs and off licences to ensure retailers correctly followed the rules on alcohol sales to young people.

All outlets passed the test.

Licensees and shopkeepers also took part in a series of training sessions covering issues such as substance misuse and how to deal with younger customers.

Sgt Julie Rawsthorne, of South Ribble Neighbourhood Policing, said: “We are pleased this project has delivered significant results in terms of tackling anti-social and illegal drinking.

“Everyone enjoys a quiet drink, but those who use it who are underage, or to excess, not only cause disturbance in the community, but also risk their own health and well-being.” A second phase of the operation is now being rolled out during the summer holidays.

It comes as new figures from the Local Alcohol Profiles for England reveal that the number of alcohol-specific hospital admissions for under 18s is ‘significantly worse’ in South Ribble compared to other local authority areas across England.

The statistics also show that alcohol-attributable hospital admissions for females is significantly worse than the national average, but the amount of alcohol-related recorded crimes and alcohol-related violent crimes is ‘significantly better’.

Coun Phil Smith, South Ribble Council’s cabinet member for regeneration, leisure and healthy communities, said: “We take the issue of underage drinking very seriously, especially as it can lead to anti-social behaviour.

“Some people who buy alcohol for a child mistakenly believe they aren’t doing any harm, possibly because they drank as teenagers, but underage drinking is a more serious issue today.

“Drinking alcohol at an early age and drinking large quantities in childhood are associated with an increased risk of developing chronic health and other problems in later life.”

He added: “The Community Alcohol Network initiative was the first of its kind in South Ribble and aimed to crack down on alcohol misuse.

“It has been very successful and I’m pleased that we’ve been able to extend it to cover the school summer holiday period.”