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Sale of Liquor Amendment Bill
What the Bill proposes: C.2, c.75, C.82, C.87
  • a definition of ‘evidence of age’
  • a defence for licensees against prosecution if shown ID
  • infringement notices for minors
  • power to seize alcohol and container

Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit supports:

  • the definition of ‘evidence of age’
  • defence for licensees if shown ID
  • infringement notices for minors
  • stronger sections on demanding and showing ID
  • offence to show false or someone else’s ID
  • power to seize ID in evidence
Evidence of age
APHRU supports the ‘evidence of age’ definition proposed in the Bill. It defines an authorised, high quality card with enough flexibility to keep up with approved advances in technology.

The Bill proposes to include a defence for licensees against a charge of serving minors that they were shown proof of age (C.75, SOL 155(4A). However it adds nothing that would actually require licensees to ask for such an ID or young people to present one.

The Bill does not provide an ID for young people. However, proposals for changes to the Land Transport Safety Act would make the driver’s licence suitable for use as proof of age, and a non-driver’s ID card is also proposed for those who wish to have one. This system is backed by a computerised data base.

This proposal is supported as a system that will work effectively. Such IDs are used as evidence of age in the US (age 21) and Canada (age 19), where the public do not considered it to impinge on individual rights.

US experiences suggest that effective age restrictions depend on a well designed, tightly administered ID card, backed by police operations to enforce compliance by both on and off licences premises (Wagenaar et al. 1993; Wagenaar & Wolfson 1994; Wolfson et al. 1996.)

Stronger sections on ID needed
Recent legislative amendments in comparable countries show a trend towards tightening up age identification provisions.
As well as supporting the proposed defence for licensees, additional provisions are recommended:
  • That licensees and servers be required to request evidence of age from all young looking people.
  • That it be an offence to present false evidence of age or evidence of age belonging to someone else.
  • That licence controllers or police may seize proof of age as evidence.
Infringement notices for minors - Clause 82.
This proposal is supported as likely to work as deterrent as well as a sanction.
It responds to reports by statutory officers that district court prosecutions of minors is slow and not always taken seriously, although the penal provisions of the Sale of Liquor Act allow judges to impose fines up to $500. A faster, smaller sanction may be more effective.

We do note that parents are financially liable for under-18s. Will parents be told about a the infringement notice by the teenager, or would they hear about it when a bailiff comes to collect a much larger accumulated debt?

Power to seize evidence - C.87.
APHRU supports allowing police the power to seize alcohol and containers as evidence. In the view of police interviewed in 1995, enforcement of the drinking age provisions and conviction rates could be increased by allowing police to seize alcohol and alcohol containers as evidence.
Also recommended, on the basis of developments in comparable legislation, is an additional sub-clause allowing power to seize evidence of age.
Examples from comparable countries
As an enforcement strategy, increasing attention in legislation is being given requiring licensees and their employees check the age of young customers, and to prescribing acceptable evidence of age…
Since 1989 Manitoba regulations have permitted a driver's licence with photo or similar ID from a state authority, and the Licensees' Manual provided by the Licensing Commission lists acceptable examples. The Commission itself supplies photo ID cards on request, for use only on licensed premises. The Manual reminds licensees that they must ensure staff request proof of age from young looking persons and must refuse to serve them and eject them from age restricted areas if this is not supplied. In Ontario it is also an offence to serve people known or appearing to be under the age of 19. No contravention occurs if there is no reason to doubt the authenticity of documentation of the prescribed type, which regulations lay down as a driver's licence with photo, Canadian passport, citizenship or armed forces card with photo, or an 'age of majority card' with photo issued by the Liquor Licence Board for those aged 19 and over. In 1995 Ontario issued a new tamper-resistant, photo-copy resistant driver's licence more suitable as proof of age, with each photo and signature stored on a data base. An information sheet for licensees includes tips on how to spot fake IDs.
In California licensees may refuse to sell or serve alcohol to any person who is unable to produce written evidence of age with a photograph, and appropriate documents are listed in the legislation itself. Use of false, fraudulent or someone else's identification card is a misdemeanour. In California joint initiatives by police and Alcoholic Beverage Control officers have included a decoy operation targeting underage drinkers and adults who buy liquor on their behalf, and a citizen's arrest procedure for use by licensees presented with fake IDs (Prevention File 1995).
In Australia, the review of licensing provisions relevant to preventing of violence and other harm recommended laminated, government issue photo identification, rather than the present rather vague requirements in most Australian Acts to make 'reasonable inquiries' about age (Solomon & Prout 1993).

In Victoria the 1987 legislation provided for licensees asking a person's age and requesting a signed statement of age, name and address, but it is a defence if a licensee has made reasonable inquiries to satisfy himself that the person was not under 18. The Victoria Licensing Commission has recently developed a programme for licensees and an information poster on identifying false IDs. From February 1996 penal provisions related to false identification were strengthened and include a penalty notice scheme allowing spot fines set at 10% of the maximum. In 1995 over 2000 proof-of-age cards were issued through 120 outlets, under effective control procedures (Liquor Licensing Commission 1995).

In Western Australia, a licensee's belief that a minor was over 18 is a defence, or he can show that the business is not conducted to entice minors and that proper diligence was exercised. In South Australia these arguments are only a defence for a 17 year old or if the licensee didn't personally serve the person. The 1992 Queensland Act required licensees to evict minors, but prosecutions for failure to do so proved difficult. In 1994 this requirement was amended to clarify the prohibition on liquor sales to minors, require the licensee or manager to ensure that no minors are on the premises and raise the financial penalties. The offence of supplying liquor to a minor was extended to public places as well as adjacent to licensed premises, unless various exemptions related to adult supervision applied.

The Queensland Act, the most recent, prescribes acceptable evidence of age, with photograph, from public authorities. The detailed penal provisions focus on the underage drinker including making it an offence to give false representation of intention to dine or to refuse to leave the premises or otherwise obstruct a licensee or employee, as well as on the licensee's right and responsibility to ascertain age. Any document wrongfully used as evidence of age may be seized. The 1994 amendments make it an offence to supply false information to obtain an official ID, or to give another person one's own ID, and included as acceptable a proof of age card issued by an approved entity, such as 'Keypass', a privately issued card of high integrity from Victoria. Queensland has been running a 'Schoolies' campaign about the minimum drinking age and ID requirements for some years, expanding it interstate when analysis of prosecutions for 1994 showed that only 20% were Queensland minors. Over 50,000 18+ cards have been issued by Queensland Transport, with 1796 driver's licences and ID cards confiscated as fraudulent in 1994/95. In that year there were 317 prosecutions of minors, but only three prosecutions of licensees for supplying liquor to minors (Liquor Licensing Division 1995).

In Tasmania the legislation itself merely requires patrons to give name address and date of birth to a police officer in required. However, the guidelines distributed by the Licensing Board states that acceptable evidence of age would include a motor vehicle drivers or rider's licence or a 'proof of age' card issued by the Transport Commission or other Australian authority, provided it has a photograph.

In New South Wales acceptable evidence of age is prescribed by regulations, following amendments to the 1982 Act. The Act now requires anyone reasonably suspected of being a minor to produce documentary evidence on request or later to the police, and makes it an offence to use false evidence. The Roads and Traffic Authority is currently developing a new over-the-counter photo-licence system, using unique holograms for card security (Liquor & Gaming March 1996). Western Australia has also been contemplating a non-forgeable proof of age card, with increased sanctions for licensees and for juveniles and also for their parents (Evans 1995).

Excerpt from Hill, L. (1997) Regulating the sale of liquor: International perspectives. Alcohol and Public Health Research Unit, University of Auckland.

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