Police step up bid to ensure Portsmouth off-licences behave within law

Police have stepped up measures to stop Portsmouth off-licences selling alcohol to underage drinkers
Police have stepped up measures to stop Portsmouth off-licences selling alcohol to underage drinkers
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POLICE have stepped up measures to stop off-licences selling alcohol to underage drinkers.

It comes after a Best One Express store, in Highbury Buildings, Cosham, was stripped of its booze licence after failing a test purchase arranged by officers.

The shop’s owners also knew little about the terms of their licence.

The city council’s licencing sub-committee took the decision after considering a request for a licence review by Hampshire Constabulary.

Police say a large majority of the city’s 184 off-licences have recently served drink to under-18s and failed to ask for identification. They have been made to attend seminars to ensure they know the law, and police visits will be carried out within the next few weeks to make sure alcohol sales are done correctly.

If that’s not the case, further action will be taken.

PC Pete Rackham, of the Portsmouth Police Licensing Team, said: ‘We have had an awful lot of test purchase failures in the city. That’s why I have been tasked with bringing off-licences up to scratch.

‘We have been engaging with people and working with them. It’s what we want to do with everyone.’

It was revealed police had tried to work with the Cosham store after the incident but had been met with a ‘wall of silence’.

Zalak Patel, who is in charge of alcohol sales at the Best One store, was also allegedly aggressive towards officers when they visited a month prior.

They found the store did not have a summary of its licence displayed, while posters of alcohol were up.

Mrs Patel insisted she was angry police criticised her for having super-strength cider in stock, when other shops nearby did.

But she apologised to the council’s licensing committee for not having a grip on the licensing rules.

‘I know the basic things to do with the off-licences,’ she said. ‘When I first met PC Rackham, he told me that when you give staff training I have to write it down.

‘I said I didn’t know about that, but I would.

‘I am sorry about that and I am sorry for the inconvenience.’ Councillors were also concerned Mrs Patel had spent most of her time recently at another one of her stores in Ludgershall, Wiltshire.

A legal representative for the shop said there had never been problems at the store before this year.