15-year-olds too young to visit toilet on their own

A SCOTTISH council has ordered that children up to the age of 16 must be supervised by their parents at all times on a licensed premises – even if that means taking them to the toilet.

The new regulations mean that, for example, a 15-year-old boy eating at a caf with his mother has to use the ladies toilets so she can keep an eye on him.

Restaurateurs say it is absurd to extend to lavatories the requirement for children to be in sight of an adult at all times, but believe they have no alternative if they are to avoid the risk of punishment.

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Glasgow City Council says the rule is required by the 2005 licensing act and says that although there is a huge difference between a toddler and a teenager, there are no legal provisions for making a distinction between ages.

Francesco Longo, manager of Barbarossa, an Italian restaurant in the south side of Glasgow, said: "We can't risk not to (comply], even if a youngster is 15, for fear of putting our licence at risk."

The regulations, which came into force in late 2009, state: "While children are in any part of licensed premises and in particular the toilet areas, they must at all times be within sight of an accompanying adult."

This could mean a girl dining with her father or a boy with his mother would have to use the opposite sex's lavatories.

The dangers the council fears children may be exposed to have not been specified.

Paul Waterson, chief executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said the rules were "absolutely ridiculous".

He added: "Obviously, children should be supervised, but the new laws were not brought in to make sure parents keep their eyes on them every single second."

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: "This rule fits with the principle of protecting children from harm.

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"Clearly it would be unacceptable for children to be unsupervised on licensed premises, but equally we expect licensees to apply this rule with a degree of common sense. We have to class children as everyone who is under 16, even though there is a huge difference between a toddler and a teenager."

Jackie Tolland, development manager for Parent Network Scotland, which promotes parenting programmes to build relationships between parents and children, called for a common sense approach.

"I think parents should use their own judgment in cases such as these.

"As a parent you know if your child is trustworthy enough to leave the table and go to the toilet by themselves without misbehaving.

"As long as it is safe for them to be by themselves then I think it is up to the parents to make a judgment call."

She said that if safety was a factor then responsible parents would not want to take their youngsters into "unsafe environments".

"If you are talking about a pub where people have been drinking heavily then I think you would want to accompany your child to the toilet.

"But then again what parent would want to take any child into that environment?"

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She added: "Becoming more independent is part of a development for any teenager and going to the toilet alone is part of that process."

She added: "Often cafs and restaurants have allocated play areas for children which, as long as the child is mature and sensible enough, should be free to go and play in. Obviously a parent should keep a close eye on them but young adults do need to develop a sense of responsibility."