PARENTS who allow children to drink at home could face prosecution, a Scottish police force has warned.
The strong line was backed by health campaigners, who say parents who allow under 18s to party at their homes are endangering their health.
Community police officers issued the warning after a rise in antisocial behaviour in the Clackmannanshire area.
Craig Rankine, a community policing sergeant with Central Scotland Police, said: “On occasions, these youths have been as young as 13 and have been found under the influence of alcohol.
“A worrying trend is a small number of parents who appear to believe it is OK to allow children to attend house parties and consume alcohol, within the confines of a family home/party environment.
“My experience is that these parties are often gatecrashed by unwelcome guests and quickly get out of control. Well- meaning parents suddenly find themselves in a situation they cannot handle.”
Sgt Rankine said parents who ignored the warnings could be prosecuted. “Parents should not be allowing their premises to be used for this purpose and run the risk of being charged with an offence under the licensing (S) act for supplying alcohol to persons under 18,” he said.
“This may sound harsh, but we are not prepared to compromise on the safety of children in our communities, who are left vulnerable by consuming alcohol.”
Evelyn Gillan, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said she supported the stance taken by Central Scotland Police. However, she added: “The problem is that the law is not clear.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government confirmed it is legal for children under 18 but over the age of five to drink at home with the permission of their parents. However, it is technically illegal to supply alcohol to anyone under the age of 18.
Gillian Bell, of charity Alcohol Focus Scotland, said parents need to be aware of possible dangers of allowing their children to drink in the home.
She added: “The police are absolutely correct in what they are saying, in that parents could be prosecuted. It is quite rare that it happens, but it definitely could happen.
“Our opinion is that if you’re under the age of 18 you shouldn’t be drinking at all, so we agree with their stance, although we obviously know some children will drink before that time.
“From a medical point of view, children’s bodies are still developing before they turn 18, and alcohol can prove an obvious hindrance. We’ve also found that the earlier children start taking alcohol, the more likely they are to stick with drinking it later in life, so the longer they can be kept off it, the better.
“Some might see prosecution as being a step too far, but parents need to be aware of the dangers of allowing children to start drinking before they turn 18.”
A spokeswoman for The Royal College of Physicians said: “Patterns of heavy drinking established early in life lead to serious problems later – there is a time lag of ten or more years from the onset of serious drinking to developing liver disease.”