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Have you had alcohol delivered to your home? You may have broken the law

If you paid by cash upon delivery, that is.

THE ISSUE OF alcohol home deliveries was raised in the Dáil recently, among growing concerns under 18s are using the method to get access to alcohol.

It’s not illegal to have alcohol delivered to your house from an off licence or shop, but paying for it with cash upon delivery might be.

In general, when ordering alcohol a person must pay on the premises or via a credit card online or over the phone.

However, a recent DPP ruling has questioned this. Hugh Greaves, coordinator of the Ballymun Local Drugs Task Force, said the Dublin North West Area Joint Policing Sub-Committee is seeking a review of a decision which found that paying with cash on delivery isn’t illegal.

Greaves told “There needs to be a clear understanding of the law.” He said the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, due to be published this summer, should look into the issue.

TD Róisín Shortall asked Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald about the subject recently, saying it comes up regularly at drugs task force meetings and local residents meetings.

Shortall told us that anecdotally she has heard many young people gain access to alcohol this way – sometimes by older people buying it, and other times by making the purchase themselves.

“If some delivery guy comes he’s not going to be checking ID,” Shortall stated, adding: “Young people themselves are ringing up the local off licence and they’re just paying for [alcohol] in cash.”
My understanding is that a shop is not allowed to take cash on delivery, the transaction has to take place at the actual off licence.

The Dublin North West TD said she has been pursuing the issue with gardaí in her constituency for some time and is trying to get them to do test purchasing.

Binge drinking costs UK £4.9BN Dominic Lipinski / PA Images Dominic Lipinski / PA Images / PA Images

Shortall noted there is “a lack of clarity among gardaí in relation to their powers” in this regard.

She said the issue has been “largely ignored by the authorities in my view”, noting: “It’s below the radar and not getting the attention it deserves.”

Shortall said one of the most common complaints from residents at community meetings are about anti-social behaviour in housing estates – a lot of which is related to alcohol.

The independent TD said that it “took a very long time to put in place protocols” that allowed gardaí to use underage people to carry out test purchases of alcohol in off licences, but thinks adults should be used in this instance to catch people who are illegally accepting cash for delivering alcohol to people’s homes.

Drugs Taskforce Awareness Campaigns Róisín Shortall Laura Hutton / Photocall Ireland Laura Hutton / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

If found guilty of facilitating illegal purchases, Shortall said off licences and shops face “fines in first instance, then more severe penalties”.

When she brought the issue up with Fitzgerald, the minister informed her that a report compiled by the government’s alcohol advisory group in 2008 “noted that sales of intoxicating liquor which had been ordered by telephone or otherwise and which were paid for on delivery were illegal transactions and recommended that the gardaí should target such delivery services with a view to prosecuting the offending licensees”.

Any information concerning transactions of this nature which are contrary to the provisions of the Licensing Acts should, therefore, be brought to the attention of the gardaí for investigation and possible prosecution.

Fitzgerald added that it is an offence for a licensee to “sell or deliver, or to permit any other person to sell or deliver, alcohol to any person for consumption off his or her premises by a person under the age of 18 years in any place except with the explicit consent of the person’s parent or guardian in a private residence in which he or she is present either as of right or with permission”.

Family Relationships Bills Sam Boal / Photocall Ireland Sam Boal / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

A spokesperson from Alcohol Ireland said the group is aware of the problem, noting it’s “an issue of regulation and enforcement”.

They added that the law is not being enforced due to “insufficient resources”.

Evelyn Jones, Government Affairs Director of the National Off Licence Association (NOffLA), which represents about 6,000 independent off licences workers, backed up the minister’s comments.

It is an offence to supply alcohol to anyone, regardless of age, where the payment for the alcohol has not been transacted at the licenced premises prior to delivery – so  it is not permitted to accept payment on delivery. Where the alcohol has been pre-paid and is being delivered, proof of age in the form of a garda age card is required.

Jones said online alcohol sales, in particular from other countries, have created a problem “whereby the duty and VAT is frequently not being paid in Ireland, as is required by law”.

“This payment is the responsibility of the person selling the alcohol (as opposed to the purchaser) and as they are not present in the country it is difficult to track and prosecute. This tax evasion is generally achieved by labelling the shipment as foodstuffs, which would not attract duty or VAT  in order to bypass customs.”

“Overall, this is a grey area in the legislation that needs to be addressed,” Jones added.

“We are pleased to see the Sale of Alcohol Bill will be addressing distance sales, which we would expect to take the form of a remote off-trade licence for such retailers. This licence would allow the Department of Justice and the Revenue Commissioner’s to verify a retailer’s fitness to retail into Ireland, as well as bring them within the fold of taxation, enforcement and regulated conduct.”

Shortall said she intends on pursuing the issue further in the Dáil.

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