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21-10-2010, 21:26
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A South Shields woman has been fined £80 for buying cider and sparkling wine (http://www.morningadvertiser.co.uk/news.ma/article/88653?N=598325&Ne=598327&PagingData=Po_0%7EPs_10%7EPsd_Asc) for her 14-year-old daughter to drink. Fair enough, you may think, and the report doesn’t go into the circumstances in detail. Possibly the fact that the alcohol was being drunk by the girl’s friends as well was a significant factor in the case.

But it does raise questions as to where it is right to draw the line. The law is quite clear that if an adult buys alcohol on licensed premises on behalf of a minor, they are committing an offence. But the offence is specifically in the proxy purchasing. It is not illegal for someone between the ages of 5 and 18 to drink alcohol, and nor is it illegal for parents to give their children alcohol. If a parent gave their 14-year-old daughter a glass of wine and she took it out into the park, would that be an offence?

Although it might not be an example of first-class parenting, I do not believe I would be committing an offence if I went into Tesco Express to buy a ready-chilled four-pack of Stella, went back to my car, and gave one of the cans to my hypothetical fifteen-year-old son who was sitting in the back seat. It’s far from unknown for parents to buy alcohol for parties given by their under-18 children, or to give their children alcohol to take to such parties.

Is this a case of the authorities seeking to push the boundaries and uninformed people who feel a bit guilty about their behaviour meekly acquiescing?

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