AN innovative scheme aimed at weeding out under-age drinkers before they can even step foot inside pubs and clubs is being tested in Winchester.

In the latest move to stop young people drinking illegally, doormen at licensed premises throughout the city are to be given key-ring ultraviolet lamps so they can properly check suspect identification.

The lights work because genuine IDs, such as driving licences and passports, have marks on them that only show up under UV light.

Because the lights are mounted on easy-to- hold keyrings, it means doorstaff can easily and quickly check whether someone who looks under-age is old enough to buy alcohol.

The moves come after an investigation by Hampshire Trading Standards used under-age volunteers to test purchase alcohol in both Winchester and Andover, and found that seven out of nine premises tested did sell drink to their 15-year-old volunteer.

The result comes on the back of a national campaign with police to reduce levels of drink-fuelled antisocial behaviour among youngsters over the festive period. Police have also sent advice to shopkeepers asking them to check the age of everyone looking under 21. The authorities are also warning that anyone caught selling alcohol to under-18s could face a Fixed Penalty Notice of £80, with further action possible against repeat offenders.

The crackdown on underage drinking is being supported Winchester's City Centre Partnership, who have bought 250 of the lights for local pubs and businesses, and the city's PubWatch.

Only driving licences or passports are accepted as proof of ID by Winchester's PubWatch members, which should help the scheme's success. PubWatch also recommends that its members check anyone who looks under 21, rather than 18.

PubWatch chairman Louise Akers, said: "The lamps are small and easy for staff to carry and use. Under-age drinking is against the law and it's important that young people know that they are more and more likely be challenged about their age and will find it increasingly difficult to buy alcohol in Winchester, especially with heightened awareness now that licensing laws have changed."

To join the scheme, contact Winchester city centre manager Graham Love on 01962 850390.