I would like to propose that the 'challenge 21' or in some cases 'challenge 25' requirements when purchasing alcohol be repealed.


Currently, the legal age to purchase alcohol in a shop is 18. However, the law requires that employees challenge anyone who appears to be under 21, or 25 in some cases, to provide ID before they can purchase alcohol. 

These regulations lead to a creeping criminalisation of people's legal right to enjoy an alcoholic drink, and foster a culture of suspicion and mistrust by enshrining in law the assumption that a customer is attempting to purchase alcohol illegally, and requiring them to prove otherwise. 

The poorly thought out nature of this law has lead to its over-zealous application in numerous instances – there have been no shortage of reports in the media of people who are clearly and unquestionably over 18 – in some cases quite evidently of pensionable age – being denied alcohol because they do not have, or cannot provide, a passport, driving licence or the one specific type of ID card permitted; and even cases where parents accompanied on a shopping trip by their children have been denied their purchase, despite showing the required ID, on the pretext that the children might drink the alcohol!

In addition, the law criminalises employers and employees who fail to check a customer's ID.

Why is this idea important?


I therefore submit that this law be seriously considered for repeal based on the following grounds : 

 – The law infringes on civil liberties by instituting an assumption of criminality on the part of those engaged in perfectly legal behaviour, i.e. the purchase of alcohol by over-18s.

– The law imposes an unfair burden of proof upon those engaged in legal activity, by requiring them to carry identification in order to engage in a legal transaction.

– The law imposes an unnecessary burden on retailers by requiring them to carry out the checks

– The law imposes an unnecessary burden on employees by holding them personally responsible – and liable to a fine – if they make an error of judgement or fail to ask for ID

– There is scant evidence that the law has had any real impact on levels of underage drinking or antisocial behavior

– There is evidence that the law increases other forms of criminal behaviour – for example, Identity theft and the forgery of identity documents; and the purchase of alcohol by over-eighteens for the consumption of minors

– It should be noted that the countries in Europe with the lowest rates of underage drinking and its associated problems are those which take a more liberal and holistic approach to alcohol education,  for example encouraging families to discuss alcohol with their children and treating alcoholic drinks, consumed in moderation, as a regular part of a healthy diet, instead of a means to get drunk and something too dangerous for under-18s to experience.

2 Replies to “Abolish the ‘Challenge 21/25’ requirements when buying alcohol”

  1. What more can I add to this succint appraisal? The writer sees the situation in crystal clarity. He and others of comparable insight should be the Makers of Law in this country, rather than the inept legislative “hooligans” that we vote into office… Maybe we should seriously begin to consider alternatives to the current “democratic” model.
    Mike Lease.

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