Haywards Heath convenience store has premises licence suspended after selling alcohol to a child

A Haywards Heath convenience store has had its premises licence suspended after selling alcohol to a child.
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The two-month suspension was imposed on Sparks News by Mid Sussex District Council’s liquor licensing panel during a meeting on Tuesday (October 17).

West Sussex Trading Standards carried out a test purchase at the store, in Queens Road, in May after receiving reports that the shop was selling vapes and alcohol to children – even those wearing school uniform.

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Despite warning licence holder Lakminy Thambu Kandasamy that a test purchase would be carried out, a 17-year-old girl was sold a bottle of WKD blue without being asked for proof of her age.

Sparks News, Haywards Heath. Picture: contributedSparks News, Haywards Heath. Picture: contributed
Sparks News, Haywards Heath. Picture: contributed

The staff member who sold the alcohol said the girl looked older than 21.

Peter Aston, West Sussex Trading Standards team manager, said it was felt that Sparks News was undermining the licensing objectives when it came to the prevention of crime and disorder and the protection of children from harm.

He told the meeting that staff members had been untrained for years when it came to the sale of alcohol, with one who joined in 2019 receiving no training until this year.

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Mr Aston said Trading Standards had no confidence that Sparks would uphold the licensing objectives going forward.

He added: “Aside from the need to address training and procedures at the store, there must be some sanctions for selling age-restricted products – particularly alcohol – to children.

“We believe robust action by the committee should be taken to serve as a clear deterrent to other businesses who continue to sell alcohol and other age-restricted products to children in West Sussex.”

A number of conditions were added to the licence on the advice of Sussex Police and Trading Standards.

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These included bringing in a Challenge 25 policy, meaning anyone who looked under the age of 25 would be asked for ID when buying alcohol or other restricted products.

Also, no more than two children at a time would be allowed in the store unless accompanied by an adult.

And digital CCTV and appropriate recording equipment would be installed in accordance with Home Office guidelines.

A solicitor acting on behalf of Ms Kandasamy said these and other issues had been rectified and that training would be given to staff every month.

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Appealing for a shorter suspension than the maximum three months, the solicitor said that being unable to sell alcohol until the middle of January would ‘inconvenience’ people during Christmas and Diwali.

With almost 80 per cent of the shop’s sales being alcohol, the two-month suspension agreed by the panel will no doubt hit hard.