Challenge 21- The law on I.D

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INDUSTRY body Pubs of Ulster and the PSNI are calling on licensees and customers to make sure they are up to speed on recent changes to licensing laws in the run up to Christmas.

The proof of age scheme, introduced by Social Development Minster Nelson McCausland back in May, means that only a current passport, driving licence, electoral identity card or PASS hologram card will be accepted as identification by pubs, clubs and off licences. The initiative, which is the first time that acceptable proof of age documentation has been specified, has been designed to make it more difficult for under 18s to enter licensed premises and also aims to reduce the high levels of underage drinking across Northern Ireland. The initiative also aims to clarify for licensees and their staff what forms of identification are acceptable when faced with young customers.

Commenting on the importance of the proof of age scheme, Mark Stewart, chairman of Pubs of Ulster and owner of The Coachman Inn, Magherafelt, said: “As a publican, I know that it has become increasingly difficult to determine the age of young customers and coupled with the fact that there are so many different forms of identification available, the issue of identification is often a very difficult one. Any initiative that therefore removes the often grey area around what forms of identification are acceptable, must be welcomed throughout the trade.

As we approach what will be one of the busiest times for the industry, I want to call on all licensees to take time and make sure that both they and their staff are up to speed on these recent changes. I also want to make sure customers are aware of what they can and cannot use as ID when visiting licensed premises.”

As well as the clarification on forms of identification, the proof of age system also requires licensed premises to display notices outlining the acceptable proof-of-age documents.

Donna Bowden, PSNI licensing officer in Magherafelt, said: “The Christmas period is a really busy time for the licensed trade and we are also aware that it is a time when people, especially young people who may be underage, go out more. Whilst we know that the majority of the trade acts responsibly at all times, the issue of underage drinking is still a problem today. That is why we are working with the trade to do what we can to eliminate it. Both the police and the trade believe that the proof of age scheme simplifies the identification issue and makes it easier for licensees to act responsibly. As well as calling on the industry to make sure they are up to speed on the proof of age scheme, we would also like to remind the public to make sure that they have an acceptable form of ID with them on their night out.”

Anyone seeking further information regarding acceptable forms of identification can visit www.pubsofulster.org or get in touch with the local PSNI for clarification.