Alcohol and the Law in Rights

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Know the law when it comes to alcohol.


In the UK you must be 18 before you can buy alcohol in the shops or in a pub.

It is an offence to buy alcohol if you are under 18.

It is an offence to try to buy alcohol if you are under 18.

It is an offence to buy alcohol for someone under the age of 18.

It is also an offence in many places in Scotland to drink alcohol in a public place such as a park etc, no matter how old you are.

What if I'm caught by the police drinking underage?

Let's imagine you're under 18 but you have got hold of some booze and you and your mates have met up in the park to get drunk.

The police turn up... what happens next?

The police have the powers to take your alcohol and get rid of it. They may ask you to pour it down the drain. You won't get your money back. The police will also ask you for your name and address. Be aware that is also an offence to refuse to give these details.

Often the police will take you home. If you are to be charged with an offence this will need to be done in the presence of your parent or guardian. They may arrange another time to come and speak to your them and it will be kept on police records that the police have spoken to you about possessing and drinking alcohol.

This information might be passed onto the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration and could be used in a Children's Panel Hearing.

What if I am over 16?

If you are over 16 and not under a supervision order then you are an adult in the eyes of the law and will be charged with any relevant offences. You may also be asked to move away from the area you are in.

Quite often the Police are called to an area as neighbours or members of the public, have complained about anti-social behaviour such as noise or swearing.

What happens if I am under 16?

If you have been charged with an offence, are under 16 and not on supervision, the police will report the matter to the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration. This means you may have a criminal record and have to attend a children's panel hearing.

The Children's Panel will assess a young person's circumstances and decide what actions are required. Remember criminal convictions can impact on the rest of your life for example applying for jobs or even travelling abroad!

Prove your age

If you look under 25 you may be asked to show proof-of-age when buying alcohol.

The Young Scot NEC is part of the UK wide PASS proof of age scheme, and so if your Young Scot Card has a PASS hologram you can use it as a valid proof of age card. Get a Young Scot card here