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Alcohol, Young People and UK Law

By: Leigh Sexton - Updated: 10 Jul 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Alcohol Age Law Illegal Underage

Many people are unaware of the strict laws that control alcohol consumption by children in the UK, but few are ignorant of the effects of underage drinking, which is cited as the cause of many problems with young people.

At What Age Can Your Child Drink?

  • Under Five - If you give any form of alcoholic drink to a child under five, you are breaking the law, unless the drink is given under medical supervision and in an emergency.
  • Under Sixteen - Children under 16 are allowed to enter pubs and other licensed premises that do not have age restricted entertainment (either over 18s only or over 21s only are the usual restrictions) as long as they are being supervised by an adult – however they are not allowed to have any alcohol.
  • Sixteen or Seventeen - Those aged 16 or 17 are allowed into licensed premises and can consume beer, wine or cider with a meal as long as two conditions are met: they must be accompanied by an adult and the alcohol must be purchased by an adult. However it is illegal for them to drink any form of spirits in pubs or nightclubs, even if they are eating a meal.
  • Under Eighteen - Anybody under 18 is breaking the law if they buy or attempt to buy alcohol in a pub, off-licence or shop. It is also illegal for anyone to buy alcohol for someone else who is under 18 except when they purchase wine, beer or cider for consumption with a meal. This law extends to people under 18 drinking wine, beer or cider in a public place.

Regional Variations And By-laws

16 and 17 year olds in Scotland are permitted to buy their own beer, wine or cider to drink with a meal as long as they drink their alcohol in an area of licensed premises set aside purely for consuming meals.

Many towns and cities now have local by-laws banning drinking alcohol in public – the area of such restriction is shown by posters and street signs indicating that it is a restricted drinking area or an alcohol free zone, and it is illegal for anybody, of any age, to be caught with open alcohol of any kind in such a zone.

The Truth About Underage Alcohol Consumption

A 2008 study revealed that 48% of fifteen year old girls had been drunk in the previous month, compared to 36% of boys the same age. 35% of 11-15 year olds who drank alcohol said their main reason was to get drunk, not to look grown up or to impress friends. Over half of the 15-16 year-olds surveyed said they had ‘drunk heavily’ in the previous month, while 30% of them had ‘drunk heavily’ three or more times in the month. There is an increasing tendency to obtain alcohol at home for consumption with friends – around half the 11-15 year olds who’d drunk in the previous week said they’d actually been given the alcohol by their parents, while 42% said they’d taken the alcohol without their parents’ consent.

To deal with the findings about drinking underage, there has been a new offence created, which allows an underage person to be fined, bound over or given an ASBO and alcohol education, if they are found persistently to be in possession of alcohol.

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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Can a 16 year old play darts in a pub after 9 as he is in the darts team what's the Lawson this ?
Minildc - 10-Jul-17 @ 9:51 PM
I am renting out a venue for hire, the venue will not be providing alcohol, however I was wondering if its okay to bring our own alcohol (no-one will be under 16)
Mia - 14-Jun-17 @ 11:12 PM
Hi, where I used to work when I was 18 years old, the owners of the place had a 15 year old daughter. She often served at the bar, and also most without manager/owners consent. Is this legal. Should I/how would I report this?
bryony - 20-Apr-17 @ 12:33 PM
Emelia - Your Question:
Would the shop sell me WKD if iam 12 years old ?

Our Response:
No! Retailers should not sell alcohol to anyone under the age of 18.
AlcoholIssues - 11-Apr-17 @ 11:34 AM
Would the shop sell me WKD if iam 12 years old ?
Emelia - 9-Apr-17 @ 10:26 PM
I am a 15 year old and I was wondering if it is legal for me to drink alcohol at my mates party accomponied by his parents.
Alf - 28-Mar-17 @ 9:37 PM
Can I take my 17 year old friend to the pub at night if she doesn't drink Im 18 so will I be classed as the adult
Jay - 27-Mar-17 @ 11:44 PM
Selly- Your Question:
Can a 16 year old serve alcohol in a pub when she is behind the bar??

Our Response:
A 16year old can serve alcohol in a restaurant if it's drunk with a meal. A 16 year old can also serve alcohol in a bar, but the licence holder or bar manager needs to approve every sale.
AlcoholIssues - 14-Mar-17 @ 11:11 AM
Can a 16 year old serve alcohol in a pub when she is behind the bar??
Selly - 11-Mar-17 @ 1:12 PM
If you want to give alcohol to your children, then why not legal highs? How about cocaine etc? You would not.Why encourage children to drink when it is not good for them?
Addict - 8-Mar-17 @ 7:43 PM
Can anyone tell me what the law is regarding giving under 18's alcohol free wine. I am a cater and wanted to do buck fizz for the teenagers I have? Don't want to break any laws though.
Avoo - 18-Dec-16 @ 6:12 PM
I want to take my 12 year old son to a pub and watch a football game is it against the law to order a non alchoholic lager or shandy for him
dragoneye - 25-Nov-16 @ 2:49 PM
If I am eighteen can I buy a friend who is only seventeen a glass of wine with dinner. I am uncertain if eighteen is classified as an adult who can buy alcohol for a sixteen or seventeen year old. Thanks
Maddie - 26-Sep-16 @ 8:54 PM
I live in Scotland and at a family party, a 14 yearold sipped a bottle of alocopop, which was quickly removed from him, by bar staff. A father also allowed his child of 7 to taste his alcohol. he was told off. should the group have been ejected from party? what does the licence suggest?
stevo - 26-Aug-16 @ 9:23 AM
Hi i live in cheshire and play darts for a local pub league what time does a 14 year old have to leave the pub by law thanks for any info P.s he will not be drinking anything alcoholic
Thecrispman - 12-Aug-16 @ 7:03 PM
Jacline - Your Question:
I occasionally work as a Night Manager in a large hotel that offers 24/7 alcoholic drinks to our in-house guests.What is the law concerning in-house guests buying themselves, say, a bottle of wine (putting it on their room) and sharing that wine with people who aren't staying in the hotel?Is this a loophole? Or is it illegal?Currently, we make sure all those we serve to after midnight (when the licence ends for the day) are staying in house, but I'd like some clarification going forward.I'd really appreciate your help.

Our Response:
it's proably easiest just to check the licence terms with your local authority on this one.
AlcoholIssues - 11-Aug-16 @ 12:27 PM
I occasionally work as a Night Manager in a large hotel that offers 24/7 alcoholic drinks to our in-house guests.What is the law concerning in-house guests buying themselves, say, a bottle of wine (putting it on their room) and sharing that wine with people who aren't staying in the hotel?Is this a loophole? Or is it illegal? Currently, we make sure all those we serve to after midnight (when the licence ends for the day) are staying in house, but I'd like some clarification going forward.I'd really appreciate your help.
Jacline - 9-Aug-16 @ 7:27 PM
Nikki - Your Question:
Can a 16 y/o buy a non alcoholic (pepsi) in a pub if he is with an adult?

Our Response:
The legal drinking age is 18. The only exception is that 16 and 17 year-olds may drink beer, wine or cider with a table meal when they are accompanied by an adult aged 18 years or over. In all other cases, it is illegal for children under 18 to knowingly consume alcohol on relevant premises, or to buy or attempt to buy alcohol.
AlcoholIssues - 2-Aug-16 @ 2:38 PM
Can a 16 y/o buy a non alcoholic (pepsi) in a pub if he is with an adult?
Nikki - 2-Aug-16 @ 2:08 PM
phanss29 - Your Question:
If I'm over 16 and I consume alcohol that's bought by my school at an event organized by and at my school, is that illegal?

Our Response:
You have to be over 18 to consumer alchohol in this kind of situation.
AlcoholIssues - 8-Jul-16 @ 2:21 PM
If I'm over 16 and I consume alcohol that's bought by my school at an event organized by and at my school, is that illegal?
phanss29 - 6-Jul-16 @ 6:15 PM
Casper - Your Question:
Can a 17 year old be in a bar as long as they're not drinking or attempting to buy/consume alcohol? If they were out with friends and on juice?

Our Response:
Under 18s are usually only allowed in bars if they're accompanied by an adult and are having a meal. Check your local council's bylaws.
AlcoholIssues - 25-May-16 @ 1:53 PM
Can a 17 year old be in a bar as long as they're not drinking or attempting to buy/consume alcohol? If they were out with friends and on juice?
Casper - 25-May-16 @ 3:09 AM
Molly - Your Question:
I live in Scotland. what would happen to me if I was charged with buying a 14 yr old alcohol ie: at a family party in a hotel where we had eaten a meal. Reason I am asking is because my son wanted a shot of zambuca and I said no. what could have been the penalty if I had bought it?

Our Response:
It is an offence for an adult to buy alcohol for consumption by someone under the age of 18 (apart from the exception above for 16 and 17 year olds consuming a meal.
AlcoholIssues - 16-Mar-16 @ 2:23 PM
I live in Scotland. what would happen to me if I was charged with buying a 14 yr old alcohol ie: at a family party in a hotel where we had eaten a meal. Reason I am asking is because my son wanted a shot of zambuca and I said no. what could have been the penalty if I had bought it?
Molly - 15-Mar-16 @ 9:27 PM
Living in Argyll & Bute ,local license policy statement, applies children and young persons must eat a meal to access license premises.So I can't even enter to buy myself and son a can of coke,without having to be put to extra un-needed expense. I can see nothing within scottish license laws that warrant compulsory eating to access license premises. What law if any would be broken if my son was caught drinking a can of coke without eating and under what legislation could charges if any be brought ? Regards. W Paterson
Billybob - 22-May-15 @ 12:05 PM
@jj. There is a night club in the town where I live that is regularly used for teenagers parties...from aged 11 upwards etc. Doesn't seem to be a problem with it... in fact they do not cover the bar up at all but will not sell alcoholic drinks to the kids obviously
seenoevil - 8-Oct-14 @ 12:18 PM
I work at a club in Manchester and I want to put a under 16 birthday party for mybrother with food All alcohol drinks will be removed from the bar can this work in the eyes of the law.
Jj - 7-Oct-14 @ 1:45 PM
My 15 year old son told me that he purchased a cider at a country pub last night and that some of his friends did the same.How do I report this pub?
spagbol53 - 1-Dec-13 @ 12:20 PM
We are holding our Golden Wedding Party in my local Country Club of which I am a member.It will be held in a corner of the Ballroom on a normal Saturday night with a meal and drinks for about 25 guests.The Club is in Scotland. Our problem is that 3 of our grandchildren are 15 and 17years old and we have been advised they must leave premises by 9.00pm.The 2x15yr old do not drinkand the 17yr old knows he can only drink cider with his meal. Is there any way we could get a special dispensation to allow them to stay to 11.45pm.
anvil - 25-Sep-11 @ 8:51 PM
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