THREE pubs in Southampton were caught selling alcohol to teenage girls as part of the latest police crackdown in the city.

Police and trading standards officers were in the city carrying out the so-called sting' operation where underage volunteers are used to see if they are served alcohol at night spots.

It brought the number of nightspots tested by officers since they began using the tactic a year ago to 50 - half of which have failed.

Police say that a 50 per cent failure rate is not acceptable and are warning licensees that tough action will be taken against those premises where staff continue to serve underage drinkers. In the latest sweep of the city eight premises were visited by the team of which three sold alcohol to the 15-year-old volunteers.

The bars who sold alcohol were The Chambers at London Road, H2O at St Mary's Road and Sobar at Bevois Valley Road, the latter two nightspots failing for a second time.

Those who sold the alcohol were given an on-the-spot fine and licensing officers will asking Southampton City Council's licensing panel to consider imposing conditions on the licences of those who failed for a second time.

Assistant manager at The Chambers Simon Cocks said: "In the four years we have been trading this is the first time we have been caught out. We have addressed the issue and we hope to continue to have a good working relationship with the local police."

No-one at Sobar or H2O was available for comment.

The five bars which refused alcohol to the volunteers were; the Honest Lawyer, Lodge Road, Dorchester Arms, Onslow Road, Bedfords, Bedford Place, The Wine Bar, Carlton Place and Firehouse at Vincent Walk.

Licensing Sergeant Stewart Chandler said: "We were pleased to see the 15 year olds refused service but disappointed that two of those premises which had previously failed have failed yet again, even more frustrating is the fact that these premises display Challenge 21 posters.''