Porkies out for undercover teens

01:43, Jan 31 2009

Teenagers who falsify their age during police-run liquor outlet stings are breaking the law, the alcohol sale watchdog says.

Teenagers who try to mislead publicans or liquor store staff about their age could be fined $1000 under the Sale of Liquor Act.

Liquor Licensing Authority chairman Bill Unwin raised the matter in the authority's annual report tabled to Parliament.

However, Alcohol Advisory Council chief executive Gerard Vaughan said the law should be changed to allow police to let people lie when taking part in the operations. It was important for stings to be realistic and under-18s regularly lied about their real ages when trying to buy booze.

"This is the reality out there, and this is the situation the controlled purchase operations are trying to imitate," he said. However stings carried out where volunteers were truthful about their age were having some success. During one in Auckland last week, 10 of 38 outlets visited sold alcohol to minors, Mr Vaughan said.

A precedent was set last year when the authority rejected an application by Nelson police to revoke the liquor licence of a pub that was caught selling alcohol to two girls, aged 15 and 16, an authority spokesman said. The pair had been told by police to say they were 18 if asked, and also told to pretend they had no identification.

"When Parliament amended the act to make it legal to ask volunteers to purchase liquor, it did not make it legal for ... volunteers to falsely misrepresent their age. The reasonable inference is that making false statements was not regarded as a desirable way to test the willingness of licensed premises to sell liquor to minors," Judge Unwin said.

The authority's decision has been welcomed by the Hospitality Association, who said volunteers who lied to bar staff cast doubt on the integrity of the system.

"It's perfectly reasonable that they have to be truthful. If it goes to [the authority or district court] you have got to take the word of that person against that of the staff. If they weren't telling the truth [during the operation] how do you know they are later on?" association president Bill McLean said.


The Dominion Post