Tesco fights booze ban in court after under-age sale

The Tesco store in Dalkeith
The Tesco store in Dalkeith
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Supermarket giant Tesco has gone to court to halt a bid to stop it selling alcohol in one of its stores on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

The Tesco in Hardengreen, Dalkeith, was hit with a 48-hour ban by the Midlothian Licensing Board after failing a police test purchase operation.

The booze ban came into effect yesterday morning, with alcohol off-limits to customers.

But at 3pm, the drink aisles were reopened after Tesco won the right to a court hearing.

The test purchase – in which a customer under the age of 18 attempts to buy alcohol from the store – was carried out in July.

The store passed a second test purchase two weeks later, but the licensing board took the decision to impose the sanction at its meeting last week.

Chairman Jackie Aitchison said: “We had imposed a two-day suspension for alcohol sales at the Tesco store in Dalkeith following a report to the board by Lothian and Borders Police.

“We have now been informed of a decision to lift this ban pending a court hearing.

“Our duty remains to protect children and ensure the age control legislation on the sale of alcohol is enforced.”

It is not the first time the licensing board has imposed a ban in Dalkeith.

A seven-day licence suspension was issued to Costcutters, in Jarnac Court, last month after it also failed a test purchase in July.

Evelyn Gillan, chief executive of the charity Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “Young people and those with alcohol problems are most likely to abuse cheap alcohol.

“We have to protect the most vulnerable people in society, but supermarkets continue to sell alcohol at bargain prices, and it is highly irresponsible.”

The court hearing is expected at some point in the New Year.

The licensing board will supply the sheriff with the reasons for imposing the ban and Tesco’s arguments will be heard.

If the sheriff decides to uphold the ban, Tesco will be asked to stop the sale of alcohol for a period equal to the unexpired portion of the embargo.

A Tesco spokesman said: “We take our responsibilities towards the sale of alcohol very seriously and operate a strict ‘Think 25’ policy.

“This means that if a customer looks under 25 years old and does not have appropriate ID to prove they are over 18, they will not be sold alcohol in our stores.

“We have been working positively with the local authorities and are disappointed with this decision. We are now considering our options.”