Number: A0302 Date Published: 6 September 2019 Version 3 – September 2019
1.0 Summary of Changes
On its 3 yearly review this procedure has been amended as follows:
New paragraphs added within section 8 regarding data security and retention and disposal of records;
Owner details updated.
2.0 What this Procedure is about
Section 154 of the Licensing Act 2003 specifically mandates that it is the duty of every local weights and measures authority (trading standards) in England and Wales to enforce within its area the provisions of the Licensing Act 2003 relating to the sale of alcohol to children.
The primary authority for conducting Juvenile Test Purchase operations rests with the trading standards departments of Essex County Council and the unitary authorities of Thurrock and Southend.
A detailed Code of Practice (Age Restricted Products & Services: A Code of Practice for Regulatory Delivery (BRDO, Department for Business Innovation & Skills, April 2014)) provides for an explanation of when test purchase operations may be appropriate and how they can be conducted.
The role of Essex Police in any test purchase operation will be limited to:
Providing relevant intelligence relating to under-age sales;
Providing immediately available overt support in the event that threats of violence, or violence are made to council staff or assisting juveniles;
Providing immediately available overt support (as above) and a covert ‘sweep’ to assist in risk assessment where a test purchase operation involves an ‘on-sales’ premise;
Issuing Penalty Notices for Disorder (PND) where this is appropriate; and
Assisting in the securing of evidence for either prosecution or in making an application for a review of a premises licence under the Licensing Act 2003.
Compliance with this procedure and any governing policy is mandatory.
3.0 Detail of this Procedure
All three Trading Standards Departments have detailed procedures for the conducting of test purchase operations. Any test purchase operation involving Essex Police will be conducted in accordance with those local authority procedures then in place.
These local authority procedures comply with the statutory Code of Practice (above) and the Practical Guide to Test Purchasing issued in 2010 by the Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services (LACoRS).
Specifically, these procedures include:
Matters relating to the selection, welfare and briefing of young persons;
Agreement and consent forms (for the juvenile and parent).
Essex Police will not recruit or train young persons for deployment as ‘test purchasers’: save where a request is made by a trading standards department for the assistance of one or more Voluntary Police Cadets.
Where this is the case compliance with C 2104 Procedure - VPC – Operations, Events and Court Attendance is mandatory.
For each joint operation, the following practices will take place:
Essex Police will collate and share information and intelligence from Athena and the Bacchus Licensing Application with the appropriate trading standards department to assist in determining whether an initial test purchase operation is justified and proportionate;
Trading standards officers will retain operational control of the test purchaser at all times;
The welfare of the juveniles involved is of paramount importance – if at any time their safety is compromised, the operation should be terminated;
Where a test purchase operation involves ‘on sales’ Essex Police will provide plain clothes officers to conduct a dynamic risk assessment that the operation is safe to proceed;
Essex Police officers will issue a PND only where the alcohol is sold by a person other than the Designated Premises Licence holder or a Personal Licence holder – in all other cases further enquiry is required;
The local police licensing officer must be advised of the outcome; and
Trading standards will be responsible for any prosecution.
4.0 Equality Impact Assessment
This procedure has been assessed with regard to an Equality Impact Assessment. As a result of this assessment it has been graded as having a low potential impact as the proposals in this procedure would have no potential or actual differential impact on grounds of age, sex, disability, race, religion or belief, marriage and civil partnership, sexual orientation, gender reassignment and pregnancy and maternity.
5.0 Risk Assessment
The LACoRS Practical Guide includes a generic risk assessment template which can be used by a trading standards department where this is not separately included within their own procedures.
The test purchaser should maintain as short and clear distance between themselves and the door as possible and abort if feeling compromised or uncomfortable for any reason.
Depending on the nature of the premises, sufficient ‘adult witnesses’ should be in place to protect and retrieve the juvenile test purchaser in the event of exposure. At least one adult witness should be dedicated to the test purchaser’s protection at all times during the operation.
Given the risk of exposure in potentially hostile and confined premises, an exit strategy should be clearly defined prior to the commencement of any ‘On’ licence operation. Ideally one adult should be placed at or shadow the test purchaser to the bar for when the purchase is made. Another (the designated adult witness in the above ethical practice) should wait near the door for the test purchaser to return to with the drinks.
The management of potential risks are ultimately the responsibility of the lead agency in control of the operation.
The following have been consulted during the formulation of this document:
Equality and Diversity Co-ordinator
Health & Safety
Strategic Change Team
Owner of VPC Policy/Procedure
Thurrock Council Trading Standards Department
Southend Council Trading Standards Department
Essex County Council Trading Standards Department
7.0 Monitoring and Review
This procedure will be reviewed every three years by, or on behalf of, the owner.
8.0 Governing Force Policy Relevant Force policies or related procedures
A 0300 Policy – Licensing
C 2104 Procedure - VPC – Operations, Events and Court Attendance
8.1 Data Security
Essex Police have measures in place to protect the security of your data in accordance with our Information Management Policy – W 1000 Policy – Information Management.
8.2 Retention & Disposal of Records
Essex Police will hold data in accordance with our Records Review, Retention & Disposal Policy – W 1012 Procedure/SOP - Records Review, Retention and Disposal.
We will only hold data for as long as necessary for the purposes for which we collected. Victims/public should be reminded that Essex Police take the protection of personal data seriously as described in the privacy notice.
9.0 Other source documents, e.g. legislation, Authorised Professional Practice (APP), Force forms, partnership agreements (if applicable)
Age Restricted Products & Services: A Code of Practice for Regulatory Delivery (BRDO, Department for Business Innovation & Skills, April 2014)
Underage Sales for Test Purchasing Policy (Essex County Council)
Section 185 Licensing Act 2003 (sharing of information)
Crime and Disorder Act, 1998
A Practical Guide to Test Purchasing: A practical guide for those organisations involved in the conduct of test purchasing operations involving young people and the sale of age-restricted products (LACoRS, 2010).