asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they have assessed the proposal to police the illegal sale of alcohol to underage drinkers in Northern Ireland by the systematic use of underage children as police decoys; whether this tactic constitutes entrapment; and whether they have implemented such a tactic anywhere else within the United Kingdom. [HL337]
Information received from the Northern Ireland Office states that it is currently progressing new legislative powers for test purchasing the sale of alcohol to under 18 year-olds. This legislative power is to be included within the draft Criminal Justice (NI) Order 2007. The draft 2007 order has been issued by the Northern Ireland Office for public consultation, which is due to conclude on 31 January 2008. It is anticipated that the legislative powers for “test purchase operations” will extend to off and on licence premises, including off licences at supermarkets.
The use of under 18 year-olds within test purchasing operations authorised by police will require written parental consent and be subject to strict guidelines, controls and procedures that avoid any risks to and ensure the welfare of under 18 year-olds.
The police welcome the proposed test purchasing powers as it will assist in addressing not only the sale of alcohol to under 18 year-olds, but also the closely linked problems of youth disorder and alcohol fuelled anti-social behaviour as a result of underage drinking.
Test purchasing legislative powers for the sale of alcohol to under 18 year-olds have been used for some time in England and Wales. Over recent years there have been a number of Home Office sponsored test purchase campaigns including tackling underage sales of alcohol (TUSAC) campaigns in October 2006 and more recently from May to July 2007. The advice to participating forces is to work in partnership with local trading standards officers and to refer them to the LACORS national guidance on test purchase.
Parental consent has to be obtained for young people to participate in a campaign and a full risk assessment has to be undertaken in all cases. Details of this can be found in the attached guidance which also includes a section on entrapment.
A copy of this guidance has been forwarded to the noble Lord and copies provided to the Lords Library. Alternatively it can be accessed through the following link at www.lacors.gov.uk/lacors/ContentDetails .aspx?id=8056.
The Home Office has not had any consultations with childcare authorities and children's welfare groups on making use of underage decoys in policing the illegal sale of alcohol.
The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (DBERR) has also confirmed that it has not carried out any such consultations.