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Alcohol, young people under 18 and the law

There are strict laws on alcohol consumption in Northern Ireland. These are contained mainly in the Licensing (NI) Order 1996 and the Registration of Clubs (NI) Order 1996. You should check that you are not breaking the law by allowing your child to drink.

Under 14s

Anyone under the age of 14 may only consume alcohol in a private house and only for medical purposes under the Children and Young Persons Act (Northern Ireland) 1968.

However, because young people take longer to process alcohol than adults, it is a good idea for them to drink less, or not to drink at all. Alcohol poses particular risks to young people under 15 and Government advice is that children under this age should not drink.

Under 18 years old

Anyone under the age of 18 is not allowed in any bar area of licensed premises or registered clubs.

However, some places hold a children’s certificate that allows a young person accompanied by an adult to be in the bar area (but not at the bar) in premises up to 9.00 pm.

A young person under 18 is allowed to be in:

  • an off-licence, if they are accompanied by an adult
  • a refreshment room at railway station, airport, harbour terminal or bus station
  • a sporting club until 10.00 pm

Buying or consuming alcohol

Anyone under 18 is not allowed to purchase alcohol or consume alcohol in a place other than a private house under the Licensing (NI) Order 1996.

It is an offence for a person to:

  • purchase alcohol for consumption by a person under 18
  • send a young person under 18 to obtain alcohol from a licensed premises

It is an offence for a licence holder to:

  • sell alcohol to a person under 18 for consumption on or off the premises
  • sell alcohol to any person for consumption by a person under 18 either on or off the premises
  • permit a young person under 18 to consume alcohol in licensed premises

Towns and cities may also have local bye-laws banning drinking alcohol in public.

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