The Minister for Justice and Law Reform, Mr Dermot Ahern, T.D., today launched the Test Purchasing of alcohol scheme and published Guidelines to be followed in its implementation. The new scheme commences on 1st October. 

At the launch the Minister said "The test purchasing scheme is intended to protect young people from the all-too-prevalent reality of alcohol-related harm. With the commencement of the test purchasing scheme, the Garda Síochána will have an additional instrument in their overall enforcement programme to combat the sale of alcohol to minors".

The licensing laws already prohibit the sale and supply of alcohol to under 18s from licensed premises. The test purchasing scheme will permit the Gardaí to send a person who is 15, 16 or 17 years old into a licensed premises for the purposes of purchasing alcohol. If a sale takes place, the premises concerned will be prosecuted.

Under existing laws a licensee convicted before the Courts for the sale and supply of alcohol to an underage person can have a closure order imposed on his or her premises for between two and seven days and/or a fine of up to €3,000 for a first offence. Second and subsequent convictions can lead to closure orders of up to 30 days and fines of €5,000. 

The Guidelines outline the steps to be followed during all stages of test purchasing operations and the manner in which the welfare of the young person must be protected. They incorporate the protection standards set out under the Child First Guidelines and ensure the protection of the test purchaser at all stages of the operation. Parental or guardian consent is required for the participation of all test purchasers. Training is provided for test purchasers and the operation is to be cancelled if their safety is compromised in any way.

The Guidelines require the Garda Síochána to carry out a risk assessment preparatory to and during all test purchasing operations.

The Minister concluded "I want to stress that the objective of the scheme is to ascertain whether a licensee is complying with the law, not to trap an unwary licensee into committing an offence. The test purchaser must answer all questions about their age truthfully." 

The Guidelines, which were agreed in consultation with the Garda Commissioner and the Minister for Health and Children, will be updated in the light of experience.

The Guidelines are available on the Department's website - www.justice.ie 

21 September 2010