Salons fined in council 'sting operation' for offering sunbed sessions to minors

Thursday, 16 February 2017

TWO sunbed salons in the Derry City and Strabane District Council (DCSDC) area have been fined 250 each after being caught offering sessions to underage children in a 'sting operation' conducted by council officers.

Details of the enforcement action were disclosed to councillors at Thursday's meeting of the council's Health and Communities Committee.

During that meeting a report was presented by Seamus Donaghy, council's head of Community. He relayed details of the test purchase exercise conducted by officers but did not disclose the identity or exact locations of the offending premises.

The exercise, he said, was carried out on two dates last year - October 7 and 11 - under the Sunbeds Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 which has a prohibition on allowing the use of sunbeds by persons under 18 years.

In all, a total of 14 sunbed premises across the district council area were visited and two failed.

Mr Donaghy explained: "The Sunbeds Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 came into effect in May 2012 and district council Environmental Health Departments have a statutory duty to enforce the provisions of the Act.

"Regulation 1 of the Act prohibits the use/sale and/or hire of sunbeds to persons under the age of 18. The aim of the legislation is to reduce the likelihood of the use/sale and or hire of sunbeds being made to underage children and to raise awareness of the legislation among the retailers.


'Test purchase'

"One of the ways that this can best be done is to carry out 'test purchase' exercises, using children under the age of 18 to try and buy or hire sunbed facilities."

The test purchases were carried out under guidance from the Northern Ireland Sunbed Working Group (NISWG).

In accordance with the requirements of the NISWG guidance two suitable child volunteers received suitable training on the test purchase exercise.

Mr Donaghy said that prior to the visits all sunbed premises owners within the council area were informed of their responsibilities under the provisions of the law.

"Those premises that were selected to be part of the test purchase exercise were visited in advance of the exercise to inform them of their legal obligations in relation to age restrictions and that such a test purchase exercise would be taking place within the next number of months.

"For the purposes of the test purchase a total of 14 sunbed premises were visited within the DCSDC area with the child volunteers.

"During the exercise two premises offered sales of sunbed sessions to the child volunteers. Following the under aged sales suitable witness statements were compiled by the Environmental Health Officers concerned in the test purchase exercises," he said.

As a consequence both premises were issued with fixed penalty notices of 250 which required them to pay within 28 days to avoid a conviction.

"A fixed penalty notice under the provisions of the Sunbed Act is a notice offering a person the opportunity to discharge any liability to conviction for the offence to which the notice relates by paying a penalty.

"Both business owners have complied with the requirements of the fixed penalty notices and payed the 250 penalty within the required 28 days," the department head said.

He also revealed that further test purchase exercises will be undertaken this year to encapsulate those sunbed premises that were not part of the first exercise.


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