It is against the law:

  • To sell alcohol to someone under 18 anywhere, and can lead to a maximum fine of £20,000 1 for bar staff/managers or premises may eventually be shut down.
  • For an adult to buy or attempt to buy alcohol on behalf of someone under 18.
  • For someone under 18 to buy alcohol, attempt to buy alcohol or to be sold alcohol.

Retailers can reserve the right to:

  • Refuse the sale of alcohol to an adult if they’re accompanied by a child and think the alcohol is being bought for the child.

The Police have the power to:

  • Confiscate alcohol from someone, no matter what their age, if they believe it has been, or will be drunk by, someone under 18 in a public place.

You can find more information on Police powers to enforce the legal drinking age on our law on alcohol and under 18s page.

ID for alcohol: proving your age

Acceptable forms of ID to prove you are over 18 include:

It’s a criminal offence to use false or borrowed ID to gain entry to licensed premises or to buy alcohol. The maximum penalty is a £5,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison. 2

Challenge 25

Challenge 25 is a scheme that encourages anyone who is over 18 but looks under 25 to carry acceptable ID when they want to buy alcohol. Challenge 25 builds on the Challenge 21 campaign introduced by the British Beer and Pub Association, who represent the beer and pub sector, in 2005. It’s now run by the Retail of Alcohol Standards Group, which represents alcohol retailers.

If you’re a licensee or involved in selling alcohol to the public, visit the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) website for more information about Challenge 25.

For more about the laws on alcohol visit the 'Licensing Act 2003' government page.


Want to know about drinking driving limit in the UK? Find out everything you need here.



  • (1) Home Office, Persistently selling alcohol to children, 2012. Available at:

  • (2) Home office website. New Guidance to help pubs, clubs and shops spot fake ID. Available at: