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Alcohol, young people and the law

The law governing alcohol consumption is very strict in the UK, and this is especially true with regard to young people. Below you will find information both on the law on the consumption of alcohol by those younger than eighteen years old as well as information on the consequences of breaking those laws. Finally, you will find some medical guidelines on alcohol consumption for young people.

What does the law say in connection to alcohol and young people?

Currently, the law is as follows:

It is against the law to sell alcohol to anyone under the age of eighteen anywhere in the UK.

It is against the law to buy or attempt to buy alcohol on behalf of anyone who is under the age of eighteen, and retailers may refuse to sell alcohol to an adult if they think it may be consumed by someone under eighteen.

It is against the law for someone under the age of eighteen to buy or attempt to buy alcohol.

It is against the law for someone under eighteen years old to drink alcohol in licensed premises except when the child is sixteen or seventeen and is accompanied by an adult. In these situations they may drink but not buy beer, wine or cider with a table meal.

It is against the law for someone to buy alcohol for someone under the age of eighteen in licensed premises except for the situations mentioned above.

It is against the law to give alcohol to a child under five years old.

It is not against the law for a child aged between five and sixteen to drink alcohol at home or in any private premises. 

What happens if a young person is caught breaking the law on alcohol?

If a child under the age of eighteen is caught with alcohol three times the may face a social contract, arrest or a fine. They may also get a criminal record which would then affect their chances of getting a job in the future and make travelling abroad more difficult. Furthermore, the police may confiscate any alcohol held by a child if they are in a public place. 

If a person is caught selling or supplying alcohol to a child they are liable for a fine not exceeding £5,000 and if a person persists in selling or supplying alcohol to a child they may receive a fine of up to £20,000.

More information on the law in connection to young people and alcohol can be found here

How much alcohol can someone under eighteen drink?

It is highly advisable that the healthiest option for anyone under the age of eighteen is not drink alcohol at all. 

Some parents allow their child or children to drink a small amount of alcohol as a means to introducing them to alcohol sensibly; however, there is no evidence to suggest this is effective. It’s recommended that instead parents inform their children about alcohol honestly and openly to ensure they are well informed. 

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