Alcohol – the law

Law
If you’re under 18, it is against the law:
• to buy or try to buy alcohol
• for an adult to buy or try to buy alcohol for you
• for someone to sell you alcohol
• to drink alcohol in licensed premises (e.g. a pub or restaurant)

If you’re 16 or 17 and accompanied by an adult, you can drink (but not buy) beer, wine or cider with a meal.

If you’re 16 or under, you may be able to go to a pub (or premises primarily used to sell alcohol) if you’re accompanied by an adult. However, this isn’t always the case. It can also depend on the specific conditions for that premises.

It’s illegal to give alcohol to children under 5.

Working in a restaurant or bar under 18;
You can serve alcohol in a restaurant if you’re 16 or 17 as long as the alcohol is drunk with a meal. You can serve alcohol in a bar, as long as you’re supervised by the bar manager and, in some areas, are only selling it in bottles or cans (not pouring it into a glass yourself).
The police have the power to stop a young person caught drinking alcohol in a public place, and to confiscate the alcohol, if they think the young person is under 18. Those under 18 who persistently drink or possess alcohol in a public places may be prosecuted

It is illegal for someone aged 18 or over to buy alcohol for someone who is under 18 years.

There are differing opinions about if those under the age of 18 should be allowed to drink alcohol. There are guidelines about the recommended limits for adults, but the recommended amount for young people is zero. This is because young people are still growing and any alcohol can have an effect on their health. For more information on how alcohol affects you, see our alcohol effects pages.

more likely to be a victim of crime or 'spiking' if you are under the influence of alcohol

more likely to be a victim of crime or ‘spiking’ if you are under the influence of alcohol

There is evidence that alcohol use in young people is linked to anti-social behaviour.

Young people are more likely to be a victim of crime if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
See our Young people and the law page for information on what actions the police and legal system might take with a young person caught breaking the law