Dunnes Stores has been found guilty of selling alcohol to a person under the age of eighteen. The conviction at Drogheda District Court is believed to be the first one since a 2008 change in the law permitted the Gardai to set up test purchases to check compliance with sale of alcohol laws.
The child purchaser, aged 15, selected four bottles of Smirnoff Ice and took them to the checkout. She was asked whether she wanted a bag but she was not asked for proof of age.
In its defence Dunnes Stores asserted that the child volunteer looked older in the picture of her taken prior to commencing the test purchase exercise. The District Judge said that even at the date of trial the girl still did not look older than her years even one year after the illegal sale.
The company was fined €1,500.00 and the shop will be required to close for a number of days.
One aggravating feature of the case was held to be the presence of a store manager who was present when the sale took place.
Retailers must be extremely cautious to ensure that products such as alcohol and tobacco are not sold to minors. They must put in place proper procedures, including training and supervision of till operators, to enable them to remain compliant at all times.
In cases of doubt about the age of a potential purchaser, retailers should follow one simple rule – ask for identification. If this cannot be provided the sale should be refused. Better to do this than face the imposition of a conviction which could have serious consequences for the business concerned.