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Teenage drinkers attack shop staff.

Byline: By Guy Basnett

Shop workers in the North-East are increasingly becoming victims of violent attacks for refusing to sell alcohol to children, a union said yesterday.

It has now prompted a pioneering initiative in an effort to tackle the problem and ensure the safety of staff working on the front line.

Manager of Sainsbury's at Cramlington, Dave Newey, said staff were increasingly victims of aggression for trying to halt underage sales.

Shops are now taking part in Challenge 21, a scheme to ask for verifiable identification cards, such as picture driving licences, for young people buying alcohol.

But he said the problem could also stretch to sales of basic items, including newspapers.

Mr Newey said: "There's a lot of physical aggression. I know my staff have been physically assaulted, from a bit of pushing to much, much worse.

"In my 26 years in the industry, I have seen incidents ranging from staff being threatened, to attacked with knives and even hypodermic needles. I think it may be getting worse."

"Much of it does come from challenging people buying alcohol, but the public needs to understand the shop, and the worker, have a legal obligation. It's very hard when you see a young worker become a victim for doing their job." Mr Newey said he had seen increasing aggression from people who were refused the sales of newspapers running promotional age-restricted DVD offers.

He said: "Whatever the product, if it is age-restricted, we have a duty to uphold that."

Events are being run this week by the Health and Safety Executive and Blyth Valley Borough Council to promote staff safety. The Blyth Valley Safer Towns initiative, running up to Friday, June 9 includes advice to stores on how to reduce violence at work and protect vulnerable staff.

In 2004/05, there were more than 655,000 violent incidents in England and Wales, which included 317,000 physical assaults and 339,000 threats.

Shop workers' union Usdaw said its latest figures showed the problem was rife in the North-East.

It asked shop staff to keep a record of aggression they suffered in a week and found that for every 100 staff there were six violent incidents and 28 threats.

Every minute of every day a shop worker is physically or verbally abused, says the union.

Usdaw North-East divisional officer Mike Brewer said: "Many of the physical assaults are linked to people carrying out their legal duty over the sale of alcohol."

HSE head of operations for the North-East Pam Waldron said: "We have been working to address and reduce the number of incidents of violence at work. These can be dangerous, stressful and damaging to people's health."

For details of the Blyth Valley scheme call (01670) 542339.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 7, 2006
Words:456
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