FOUR pubs served underage police volunteers in a licensed premises operation in and around Swindon.

Police and licensing officers conducted test purchase checks at 19 venues in Swindon and Highworth on Friday last week.

In the majority of cases, staff challenged the youngsters and either refused them entry or declined to serve them alcohol.

However, three premises in Highworth and one in Swindon failed the test purchase and served alcohol to the underage volunteers.

The volunteers were male and female and aged between 15 and 16.

Police licensing manager David Bennett said: “It is encouraging that the majority of venues visited have refused to allow the youngsters to purchase alcohol.

“It is, however, disappointing that certain premises appear not to have sufficient age verification procedures in place to ensure that underage serving does not occur.

“We will continue to conduct these operations and will specifically target those premises where intelligence indicates that youngsters are being served alcohol.”

The pubs that failed to challenge volunteers were The Globe, King and Queen and The Cellar Bar, all in Highworth, and the Tap & Barrel in Manchester Road, Swindon.

The management of all these premises have all received a follow-up police visit.

Consideration will now be given to determine what sanction is appropriate and to provide support to ensure systems are in place to prevent any recurrence.

The Police and Crime Commiss-ioner for Wiltshire and Swindon, Angus Macpherson, attended one of the venues with officers.

He said: “I am firmly behind test purchase operations and I was pleased to accompany the police, licensing officers and volunteers who carried out the checks in Swindon and Highworth.

“One of the key priorities in my Police and Crime Plan is to reduce offending and re-offending.

“Serving under-age drinkers can lead to anti-social behaviour as well as posing a threat to their health.

“Wiltshire Police is quite right to crack down on irresponsible pubs and clubs, so I hope this operation will remind all licensees that they must verify the age of customers before they are served alcohol.

“I would also like to remind licensees about the new Proof of Age Standards Scheme 18 plus card that was launched in the summer.

“The card also reduces the number of valuable documents, driving licences and passports lost by young people while out.”

PASS Cards are supported by the Home Office, Trading Standards Institute, Security Industry Authority (SIA) and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).

More than half of passports reported lost in the UK are mislaid on nights out by young people.

Future operations will be conducted in other locations across the county.

All the premises visited last Friday that passed will be notified in writing that the operation took place and that their staff correctly challenged the volunteers.