Thursday, 21 October 2010

Proxy parenting

A South Shields woman has been fined £80 for buying cider and sparkling wine for her 14-year-old daughter to drink. Fair enough, you may think, and the report doesn’t go into the circumstances in detail. Possibly the fact that the alcohol was being drunk by the girl’s friends as well was a significant factor in the case.

But it does raise questions as to where it is right to draw the line. The law is quite clear that if an adult buys alcohol on licensed premises on behalf of a minor, they are committing an offence. But the offence is specifically in the proxy purchasing. It is not illegal for someone between the ages of 5 and 18 to drink alcohol, and nor is it illegal for parents to give their children alcohol. If a parent gave their 14-year-old daughter a glass of wine and she took it out into the park, would that be an offence?

Although it might not be an example of first-class parenting, I do not believe I would be committing an offence if I went into Tesco Express to buy a ready-chilled four-pack of Stella, went back to my car, and gave one of the cans to my hypothetical fifteen-year-old son who was sitting in the back seat. It’s far from unknown for parents to buy alcohol for parties given by their under-18 children, or to give their children alcohol to take to such parties.

Is this a case of the authorities seeking to push the boundaries and uninformed people who feel a bit guilty about their behaviour meekly acquiescing?


  1. Blimey! Those kids are sploilt. My mum would of told me to buy my own booze! When I was an under-aged drinker I had to get a washing up job to pay for my booze and buy it myself. Still, it's not so easy for under aged drinkers these days.

  2. I don't really have a problem with supplying alcohol to kids (within reason).
    Mine have grown up with the likes of a wine spritzer/wine glass of perry with the sunday dinner etc.

    To my mind it cuts out the hypocrisy (I can drink but it's bad for you stuff) and if allowed small quantities stops the "unsupervised" consumption.

    I remember my days as an under aged drinker, we'd sit in the corner being quiet talking amongst ourselves. One of the landlords in my local used to serve a small group and told them he knew they were under age but he'd serve them but any bother and you're out.
    They'd have a couple of pints and play pool and were were no bother.

    I'm talking 3 or 4 lads of 16/17 here, not turning the pub into a youth club.
    OK they might get a bit loud now and again (but don't we all) but the landlord would just give them the look, didn't have to say anything and they'd settle down.
    They knew it was a privilege to be in there, and it gave them the right attitude.
    It's a different tale for those who spent their formative years drinking in the park until they're 18, they tend to be mouthy gobshites with no respect for anyone.

  3. Personally our kids had small amounts of wine with Sunday lunch and on suchlike occasions on the sensible basis that they needed to learn about alcohol, and supervised at home was the best place to learn.
    A modern interpretation of the rules by the do-gooder society however might argue that even if it was not bought with that intent and the sales laws were not intended to prevent sensible family use of alcohol anyone who buys alcohol then allows an underage person to drink it is in fact 'proxy buying'.
    It's bloody depressing isn't it? But you can give them as much as you like of your home brew :-)

  4. I remember my first pint we used to send up our pal who though even 16 had sidies and a tache so he got served.
    This was 40 years ago mind.
    After our first the landlord asked us to leave.
    The good ole days drinking was still supervised by adults.
    He didn't want us to have any more than 1 , offered soft drinks, then
    We left .
    Much to guffawing of the regulars.

  5. If the woman was buying alcohol and giving to her daughter to drink on the streets/in the park with her mates then I do see a problem with it. Around my way we have problems with kids doing this and they are screaming abuse at others and throwing stuff around. Not the behaviour I want to walk though from kids as I try to get to my local shops.

    There is a vast difference between giving a teenager alcohol at home or in a environment where responsible adults are around to keep the situation positive and giving them alcohol to take out of the house to drink in a park.

  6. The over 5 rule is an old one that applies to licenced premesis (not in the bar).
    I don't think it is still valid under the new 2003 licencing act, but don't quote me on that.

    Buying booze for your kid to drink at home is legal but not for them to take it out onto the streets.

    Privte property only.

  7. If you allow your 15 year old son a can of lager when sat at home, you are responsible for his behaviour and who is going to know?

    If you give your 15 year old son a crate of beer and your son runs riot along the street whilst pissed smashing cars and the police take him in and he tells him you gave him the grog, then you ought to be done same as an off licence would be done.


  8. That report is terrible journalism. If the woman took the drinks home and gave some to her daughter, that is apparently OK. What happened? What if the other mothers ended up in the woman's house, together with the three girls?

  9. Yes, as I said, the report doesn't make the circumstances clear. The odds are that the 14-yo and her mates were drinking in the park and, when asked where she'd got it from, said her mum.

    But, given that it is not illegal as such for under-18s to drink alcohol, the case does raise some interesting questions as to exactly where the boundary between legality and illegality lies.

  10. Not enough info really. If, for example, while still in the shop she was overheard to say to her daughter, "That's for you and your mates later", then it's to be expected. I don't see how she could have been caught unless there was some public aspect to this. Or if the booze was drunk at her home and a parent of one of the other girls complained.

  11. If kids are allowed in bars where
    ale is guzzled ,expect them to join
    in elsewhere.
    Ban kids from pubs,clubs,off licenses supermarket, booze alleys,
    shut down venues selling to the underage,then we are talking
    business,if not,cut the waffle.

    Real Pub Seeker

  12. As you have hinted, it is hypocracy.


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