Youth club to breathalyse kids in bid to cut drinking

An Oxfordshire youth club is set to breathalyse children in a desperate bid to combat underage binge drinking which has blighted the club.

Leaders at the Sweatbox youth club were forced to close the facility in December after persistent problems with children as young as twelve turning up drunk.

Youth worker Garry Kingett said: “We could not operate safely dealing with the amount of young people abusing alcohol. They would get drunk off their trolley and come here on a Friday night.

“If they got comatose their friends would dump them outside and clear off and we would have to call the paramedics.”

The breath tests will be random and conducted in a separate room, and children who test positive will either be turned away or held at the club until their parents collect them.

Inspector Ian Money, from Thames Valley Police, welcomed the move, saying: “Antisocial behaviour and underage drinking is something we are very keen to tackle, and the two often go hand-in-hand.

“Any initiative that helps to educate young people about the dangers of alcohol will always get our support.”

And Chris Sorek, chief executive of Drinkaware, said: “Underage drinking is a very real problem across the country and with children as young as 12 getting so drunk they need medical attention, the issue needs to be addressed urgently.

“It’s important communities tackle local underage drinking and working in partnership with parents to prevent alcohol-related harm is crucial.”

The youth club, which has nearly 2,000 members, will also raise the age at which children can attend Friday night events to 14 years old.

Sweatbox is relaunching the Friday activities on 26 February.

This is not the first time that breathalysers have been used in a bid to combat underage drinking.

Two years ago North Wales Police started to breathalyse children caught drinking in public.

And some schools in Northamptonshire began breath-testing pupils in 2006.

Those who tested positive or refused to take part risked being expelled.

Last month it was revealed that children as young as eleven are drinking the equivalent of nearly two bottles of wine a week.

And in December figures uncovered by the Liberal Democrats showed that alcohol is fuelling an increase in youth crime.

The figures revealed that over 39,000 children were fined, cautioned or taken to court for alcohol-related offences between 2003 and 2007.

Over 6,000 of these children were aged between ten and 15.

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