MORE than 1,000 children in the south were caught abusing alcohol in a five-year period, latest official figures show.

A total of 1,041 under-18s in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight were fined, cautioned or taken to court for booze-related offences between 2003 and 2007, according to Home Office records.

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They included 899 children aged 16 or 17, 136 aged 13 to 15 and six aged 10 to 12.

The Liberal Democrats have called the figures “shocking” and demanded an end to alcohol being sold at “pocket-money prices”.

The party said the number of under-18s involved in alcohol-related offences across England and Wales had increased by almost a third, from 6,764 in 2003 to 8,686 in 2007, with the five-year total reaching 39,714 – including 124 children aged 10 to 12.

Lib Dem home affairs spokesman and Eastleigh MP Chris Huhne, who obtained the figures through Parliamentary questions, said they “painted a shocking picture” of how many children were “dragged into the criminal justice system through alcohol abuse”.


He said: “The problem appears to be growing worse by leaps and bounds. Ministers talk a lot about the alcohol crisis in this country but have completely failed to tackle it. Unless we change our drinking culture, we will condemn many of these children and adolescents to serious long-term alcohol-related illnesses or a life of crime.”

Mr Huhne added: “We must put an end to alcohol being sold at pocket-money prices and start educating our children about the dangers of drink or these figures will continue to get worse.

“Rather than more posturing, the Government should enforce a strict policy that those who sell alcohol to underage children will lose their licence.”

An Alcohol Concern spokesman said the figures were “a reflection of how easily and cheaply available alcohol has become for young people.”

A Home Office spokesman responded: “We are determined to reduce underage drinking through effective education and tough enforcement. Enforcement against irresponsible retailers who sell alcohol to young people, reducing demand among under 18s and educating both young people and parents of the harms alcohol can cause.

“As well as running educational and enforcement campaigns we are strengthening police powers to deal with young people drinking alcohol in public and are toughening the penalties for those premises that sell alcohol to children.”