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Store punished for selling alcohol to girl, 13

PUBLISHED: 10:33 16 March 2009 | UPDATED: 16:01 07 September 2010

Josie Hinton AN OFF licence in Lisson Grove has been banned from selling alcohol for three months after a worker sold vodka to a 13-year-old girl. Amplavanar Ramanan, who has since been sacked from Conteh Discount Convenience Store in Church Street, sold

Josie Hinton

AN OFF licence in Lisson Grove has been banned from selling alcohol for three months after a worker sold vodka to a 13-year-old girl.

Amplavanar Ramanan, who has since been sacked from Conteh Discount Convenience Store in Church Street, sold three bottles of vodka to the underage teenager in August last year.

The girl visited the shop twice on August 21 - first to buy one bottle and, after being successful, to buy two more. CCTV cameras in the shop showed Mr Ramanan failed to ask the child for identification during either visit.

The child's mother later found her vulnerable daughter in a severely drunken state, unable to speak and barely able to walk.

Mr Ramanan told police he mistook the girl for a 20-year-old woman he had asked for identification on a different occasion.

Last week, Westminster's licensing chiefs suspended his alcohol sales until June, following the joint prosecution of Mr Ramanan by the police and council.

Inspector Neil Acheson, from the Met's licensing enforcement team, said: "Cracking down on underage drinking can only be a success if licensed premises and off-licences work with us and refuse to sell alcohol to anyone under the age of 18.

"While we work very closely with the majority of shops, bars and clubs in Westminster, those that continue to sell alcohol to underage people undermine the good work being done across the rest of the borough."

Suspending the licence, the licensing committee also demanded several conditions including the dismissal of Mr Ramanan, a new CCTV system and a daily log of all alcohol sale refusals.

The committee also said alcohol must be sold in translucent - rather than black - bags. They also agreed there should be no self service of spirits and that no beer, cider or lager stronger than 5.5 per cent should be sold.

Following the meeting, Cllr Michael Brahams, chairman of the licensing sub committee, said: "There's no excuse for not asking for identification when selling alcohol to young people. The council has a duty to protect children and to make sure retailers act responsibly and within the law.

"When they fail to do so, as was sadly the case at Conteh's, we and the police will take firm action to ensure this does not happen again."

Ampalavanar Ramanan, who was the licensee at Conteh, pleaded guilty at City of Westminster magistrates court on January 13. He was ordered to pay a £400 fine and £100 in costs and has been banned from selling alcohol from the shop in the future. The shop owner, Thiyagarajah Thevarajah, is now the licensee.

Westminster Council is now preparing to review the licences of other premises found to be selling alcohol to under-18s during a recent test purchase operation. It will also send warnings to retailers that breaches of the law will not be tolerated.

Staff at Conteh Discount Convenience Store refused to comment on the decision.


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