Police have called for a “national debate” over parental responsibility after saying that seven out of 10 underage children caught drinking in a seaside resort were given the alcohol by their parents.
Devon and Cornwall Police said that 70 per cent of teenagers caught drunk and disorderly by officers in Newquay this summer said they were sent to Cornwall with alcohol, rather than attempting to buy it in local shops.
And though some parents were shocked when they found out from officers that their children had been behaving badly, other parents were arrogant and abused officers who confiscated the booze, saying they were spoiling their child’s “fun”.
Many of those discovered by police were aged just 15 or 16, and being allowed to Cornwall alone with friends to celebrate the end of the GCSE exams in June and July.
Supt Julie Whitmarsh said the figures collected after their summer campaign against underage drinking in the town – where several teenagers have died in recent years – were “scary”.
She said the force is talking to the Home Office about ways of prosecuting parents who stock their children up before they leave home.
“Not only are they left with alcohol but they are left on their own with alcohol, which makes it a different situation than having alcohol at home,” Ms Whitmarsh said. When children come to Newquay they are very much on their own, they have a freedom they perhaps don’t have at home.
“At what point is it a good idea to leave children with alcohol, and the amount of alcohol that we have found?”
More than 4,000 youths aged under 18 holidayed in Newquay this summer, according to figures collected by the police.
Over the course of the summer months, officers in the town confiscated 1,044 unopened bottles and cans of alcoholic drink and poured away more than 5,000 that had already been opened. They included one group of four boys from Bristol celebrating the end of their GCSEs who were sent to Cornwall with more than 100 alcoholic drinks between them.
More than 100 people, both over and under 18, were banned from entering Newquay town centre for causing antisocial behaviour.
But 90 per cent of shops in the town targeted by “proxy purchasing” stings, trying to catch out those selling alcohol to youngsters, passed the test.
Ms Whitmarsh said they had teenagers from all over the country visiting the resort, better known as the capital of British surfing, including from the Home Counties, Birmingham and Wales.
In the most serious cases, parents are rung and ordered to collect their children immediately. A further 71 families were sent letters warning them about the conduct of their child. But some parents subjected officers to “shocking” abuse when they informed parents of what their children were doing.
When a police community support officer (PCSO) rang the mother of a boy who was one of four 16-year-olds from Surrey caught with 64 cans of Special Brew, he was abused. Proof, the police say, of parents not taking their role seriously.
“The mother had a go at my member of staff, saying ‘haven’t you ever had fun? You are stopping my son having fun, it’s outrageous’,” Ms Whitmarsh said.