An Age Verification Policy Must be in Place

Licensing Law NewsIn our second in the series of articles explaining the impact of the Mandatory Conditions (Amendment) Order 2014 which will took effect from 1st October 2014, we will examine the requirement for every premises to implement an Age Verification Policy.

Age Verification Policy

The mandatory condition states that:

‘The premises licence holder or club premises certificate holder must ensure that an age verification policy is adopted in respect of the premises in relation to the sale or supply of alcohol.’

Whilst this in itself has been a mandatory condition for some time, the condition has been strengthened and the guidance has been changed in a number of respects.

A written age verification policy is easy to achieve and we have made some examples available for our clients to use on the Free Downloads & Resources Page of our website.

The simplest way of implementing an age verification policy in relation to the sale or supply of alcohol, is to implement a system where if a member of staff suspects that a customer who is attempting to buy alcohol is under the age of 18, that member of staff has to satisfy themselves that the customer is over 18 by demanding that he / she proves it; by presenting suitable a valid Identity Document.

Challenge 21 or Challenge 25 Policy

If a premises licence has a condition requiring the premises to enforce either a Challenge 21 or a Challenge 25 policy, then the written Age Verification Policy should reflect this. So for example a premises which has a condition requiring it to use Challenge 21 should have an age verification policy which states that every sale of alcohol to any person who looks under 21 will only be completed if they can prove they are over 18 years of age.

Age Verification Policies for Challenge 18, Challenge 21 and Challenge 25 along with notices which can be displayed at the premises can be downloaded for free from our Free Downloads & Resources Page >>

The Designated Premises Supervisor

One of the changes to the mandatory condition is that there is not only a stipulation to implement and age verification policy, but also a requirement for the Designated Premises Supervisor (DPS) to ‘ensure that the supply of alcohol at the premises is carried on in accordance with the age verification policy’.

It is therefore the DPS who takes on the responsibility, of not only putting the age verification policy into place, but also to ensure that the staff follow that policy. This means that they have to ensure that staff are suitably trained and that sufficient supervision is in place to ensure compliance.

Training can be strengthened considerably as can a defence of due diligence if a written policy not just of the age verification policy is in place, but that staff are trained in an age restricted products sales policy adopted by the premises. An example of an age verification policy is available on our Free Downloads & Resources & Download Page >>

Suitable ID

We have been advocating the use of strict policy when it comes to acceptable forms of ID which can be used as a proof of age document for many years. The guidance was clear, UK Photo-card Driving Licence, any Passport or a Proof of Age photo-card bearing the PASS hologram.

This situation has over the last few years become somewhat more complicated, especially for EU citizens who often do not have passports, as they can travel using their EU Identity Card; these were not on the list of permitted forms of ID.

In the new guidance the parameters have been extended, not to relax the rules, but rather to make other legitimate forms of ID acceptable.

Permitted Identification Documents should have a photograph, the date of birth and:

  • Holographic Mark
  • or an Ultraviolet Feature

The guidance offers examples of acceptable ID:

‘ card driving licences, passports, military identification or proof of age cards bearing the PASS hologram, although other forms of ID which meet the criteria laid out above are also acceptable.’

While most EU ID cards would now therefore be acceptable, the burden is on the DPS to set out what forms of ID they accept at their premises, as it will be for them to justify to a court that the ID accepted meets the criteria set out.

The question will be asked for example; when an EU ID card is accepted as proof of age, but then turns out to be a ‘fake’. While the presentation of that ID is in itself in some circumstances a criminal offence, the sale of the alcohol would still be an offence liable to a £5000 maximum fine and potentially a Review of the Premises Licence.

Imagine if the EU ID accepted as a proof of age looks nothing like the authentic one produced by that country? How is the seller of alcohol meant to know what all the different ID cards issued by 25 of the 28 EU countries look like?

The defence that the seller did not know what the original ID looked like would not stand up in court. It is for the seller of alcohol to satisfy themselves that the ID presented is genuine and that they were right to believe it belonged to the person presenting it. The emphasis must be on the buyer to present a form of ID which satisfies the seller, not the other way round. If the seller is in anyway unsure of the authenticity, they MUST REFUSE the sale.

Therefore only forms of ID with which the seller is familiar with and which as a consequence they can judge the authenticity of by comparison (albeit from memory), should be accepted.

The other alternative would be to have a file of example pictures of all permissible 25 EU Identity Cards as a point of reference for staff, but this does throw up significant operational issues.

The only defence which can be used in this circumstance is a ‘due diligence defence’ that:

The ID presented would have convinced a reasonable person

So make sure your team members ask themselves before any sale is made; am I CONVINCED the ID presented is genuine.

Dictionary definition of ‘Convinced’: Completely Certain About Something.

We Can Help

Our licensing consultants can provide assistance and guidance on all licensing matters, as well as on operational procedures in relation to age verification to ensure compliance with all current legislation under the Licensing Act 2003 and associated legislation.

We also deliver training for front-line staff working in the licensed hospitality and licensed retail sectors.

Please contact us on 01784 434 392 or Contact Us >>

More Information


Author - Peter Mayhew is the Managing Director of Beyond the Blue Training & Consultancy. He delivers training courses and provides expert opinion on alcohol & entertainment licensing for individuals, organisations and public bodies. Peter is a frequent contributor to industry publications.

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Page Updated: 10th November 2014