Judge threatens to strip licences from bars who serve young people

Judge threatens to strip licences from bars who serve young people

23 November 2011

A JUDGE has threatened to remove alcohol licences from local pubs and clubs if they serve drink to minors.

District Judge Greg McCourt said the sale of alcohol to young teenagers is a “scourge of society” and he issued a stark warning to pubs and clubs — if you want to keep your licence, obey the law.

Mr. McCourt made the comments during the prosecution of a barman for selling alcohol to a 14-year-old girl at Ballynahinch Rugby Club close to Christmas last year.

The charge against 20-year old Aaron McDowell, a part-time staff member, was dismissed after Mr. McCourt, decided there was not enough evidence for a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.

The girl was also served alcohol in two bars in Ballynahinch on the same night. Concern was expressed by her parents as to her whereabouts and her condition, a special sitting of Downpatrick District Court was told.

Mr. McDowell, of Dundrum Road, Dromara, who was 19 at the time of the incident, was the only person charged with selling alcohol to a young person.

“There were three or four other persons on duty at the bar at the time. People had responsibilities in two other bars in which the young person was served and all seemed to have no problem in serving alcohol to young people,” said Mr. McCourt.

“The young person involved had quite a lot to drink to say the very least, indeed she cannot remember anything after 12pm that night.”

Mr. McCourt praised the thorough investigation carried out by Constable Ian Kilpatrick, who visited more than 20 witnesses and took statements.

Voicing his concern at young people, “children in the eyes of the law”, being sold alcohol, Mr. McCourt said he is aware Ballynahinch Rugby Club regularly holds underage events.

“I have noted that Ballynahinch Rugby Club seems to operate certainly a lot of underage events. The people who attended here didn’t have to sign a visitors book as everyone else does, and then alcohol was served.

“If it was on this occasion an underage disco there should be no alcohol served, even to adults. It’s just asking for trouble. Equally, the two public houses don’t seem to have caused any investigation.”

He pointed out that verification of the age of patrons is easily carried out.

“Schemes are in place in the public domain for people who are 18 to hold identification cards to show they are over 18, and well-run public houses and clubs will not let people in when they cannot prove they are over 18.

“All too often do I see here in the youth courts young people of 14 and 15 intoxicated when they break the law and the question is, who serves them drink?

Issuing a warning to local businesses, the District Judge said: “If any public house or club wants to maintain their operating licence or registration they must ensure the law is complied with.

“I want to make it absolutely clear they better not come before me with the sale of intoxicating liquor to minors.

“It is a scourge of society and the sale of After Shock, at 30 percent volume, is indefensible,” he concluded.