Underage Sales of Alcohol – soon to fall under Primary Authority Scheme

It has been confirmed that the underage sale of alcohol will, from the 6th of April 2014, fall within the scope of the Primary Authority (“PA”) scheme.  This includes sections 146, 147, 147A, 148 and 151 of the Licensing Act 2003.


Primary Authority offers businesses the opportunity to form a legally recognised partnership with one local authority (known as a “primary authority”), which then provides advice for other councils to take into account when carrying out inspections or dealing with non-compliance.  When a business enters into a PA partnership they can be provided with assured advice from their PA and other authorities who have dealings with the business have to have regard for the advice that has been given by the PA and any published inspection plans.


In essence, if a regulator (not including the Police) wants to take enforcement action against a business they have to inform the PA who must consent to any enforcement action. If the business have followed the PA advice properly the PA is unlikely to give consent which in effect quashes any enforcement action.


From the 6th of April 2014 this will also include any enforcement associated with the underage sale of alcohol.


It is important to note that the PA scheme will only apply when a regulator wishes to take action against a business in a PA partnership.  It is possible to take enforcement action against an individual employee without the need to seek advice from the PA.


To take the underage sale of alcohol as an example, a regulator can issue a FPN to an employee for selling alcohol to a minor if that employee did not follow the business’ policies.  However, a regulator cannot prosecute the business for knowingly allowing underage sales without seeking permission from the PA.


In the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008 enforcement action means:


  1. any action which relates to securing compliance with any restriction, requirement or condition in the event of breach (or putative breach) of a restriction, requirement or condition;


  1. any action taken with a view to or in connection with the imposition of any sanction (criminal or otherwise) in respect of an act or omission;


  1. any action taken with a view to or in connection with the pursuit of any remedy conferred by an enactment in respect of an act or omission.


It is unclear whether a review of a premises licence will fall within the description of what constitutes enforcement action when it relates to the underage sale of alcohol.  Happy to hear from anybody who would like to give a view on this.  Leave your comments below.


Details of PA partnerships, what it covers and any assured advice/inspection plans is available on the PA website. (Registration required to see details of assured advice and inspection plans)