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A SHOCKING 90% of Merseyside teenagers are regular boozers, new research revealed today. The government statistics found about half of the young drinkers were illegally buying the alcohol themselves.

But council and police chiefs today said a summerlong crackdown would help tackle the problem.

Figures showed more than half of youngsters in Wirral, Sefton and Halton drink at least once a week - way above most other north-west authorities.

Earlier this month, an ECHO investigation revealed five young teenagers are rushed to hospital every week after binge-drinking. Police and council bosses today started a two-month operation to target shopkeepers who illegally sell alcohol to children.

They want anyone who looks under 21, rather than under 18, to be challenged to prove their age before buying booze.

Any trader who fails to make the checks will lose their defence of having taken reasonable steps to prevent under-age sales.

City leaders want to wipe out booze-fuelled violence and anti-social behaviour which blights many communities during summer.

Assistant Chief Constable Ian McPherson said: 'It is important everyone comes together to deal with those people who not only commit offences after drinking too much, but also those who illegally supply young people with intoxicants.'

John McHale, of Liverpool trading standards, added: 'The se new figures show unscrupulous retailers must be selling alcohol to children.'

The new crackdown is timed to coincide with the start of the school holidays.

Shopkeepers face fines of up to pounds 1,000 if they are caught selling alcohol to youngsters and risk losing their alcohol licence.

Children found drinking alcohol can be hit with a pounds 50 on-the-spot fine
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 30, 2005
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