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LLA Decision Disappointing


Sellers of alcohol do not have to judge the age of customers; rather they have to check for proof, says the Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC).

“While compulsory age checks are not mandatory, they are the best defence for liquor outlets to avoid the time and expense involved in a prosecution,” says ALAC Chief Executive Officer Dr Mike MacAvoy.

In a recent Controlled Purchase Operation (CPO) on Waiheke Island one outlet asked the under age volunteer for identification and then refused to sell her alcohol. The eight other outlets made a judgment call and assumed the volunteer was over 18-years-old.

In a just released decision, the Liquor Licensing Authority (LLA) decided none of the outlets involved would face further action. The LLA accepted the defence that because of the way the volunteer was dressed, her confidence and demeanor, the outlets had ‘reasonable grounds’ to believe the volunteer was aged 18-years-old or over.

“The case is disappointing in a number of aspects,” says Dr MacAvoy.

“First what is shocking is that eight of the nine outlets targeted sold alcohol to a minor without asking for identification,” he says.

“What is also extremely disappointing is that the deficiencies in the CPO run by the Auckland authorities allowed the premises to raise the defence which was accepted by the LLA that they had ‘reasonable grounds’ to believe the volunteer was aged 18-years-old or over.”

However, despite the apparent deficiencies in the operation, the local supermarket was still motivated to ask the volunteer for identification.

“One might ask how the supermarket was so alert to the situation as opposed to the eight outlets that sold alcohol to the volunteer. If the supermarket can do, everyone can do it.”

Dr MacAvoy says the CPO guidelines developed by ALAC say volunteers should be 17-years-old or younger, should ask for the type of drink consumed by young people, and they should dress and act as a normal teenager. This did not happen in this case.

“I would urge the Auckland agencies to carry out another such operation and this time stick closely to the guidelines.

“Hopefully, the liquor outlets on Waiheke have learnt their lesson and another CPO will produce a better result.”

The decision follows a November hearing relating to a controlled purchase operation conducted on Waiheke Island in September this year by the Auckland District Licensing Agency and the Auckland Police where an underage volunteer attempted to purchase alcohol.

Of the nine off-licensed premises targeted, eight made sales to the under age volunteer.

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