A TRAINING scheme for Halton's alcohol retailers is playing a role in the war against under-age boozing and crime.

Halton Borough Council has teamed up with Halton and St Helens PCT in launching a course for the level one award in responsible alcohol retailing.

Under the Licensing Act 2003, anyone authorising the retail sale of alcohol must hold a personal licence.

And to qualify, an applicant must hold a licensing qualification that is Qualifications and Curriculum Authority-accredited and Government-approved, such as the council-run course.

The course ends with a multiple-choice exam and is aimed at all staff involved in alcohol sales.

It could even help a company establish a defence if it is prosecuted for selling to minors.

Course participant Eric McKay, owner of the Londis store in Hough Green, Widnes, said: 'Everyone who works in an off-licence should understand the law and, perhaps more importantly, their responsibility towards the community while selling alcohol.

'In the past, there never seemed to be any official back-up.

'You always felt you were on your own.

'The new initiative on the sale of alcohol and under-age drinking is a very positive move in the right direction.

'My own belief is that most retailers take their responsibilities very seriously and they are aware of the social problems that can arise through under-age drinking - especially on estates.

'The biggest problem at the moment is the problem of adults purchasing for them.

'It is the one area in which I feel the law should be more stringently enforced.

'All my staff who attended the course enjoyed it but more importantly, each and every one of them learned something.

'I also hope more retailers, large and small, take advantage of any future training the department organises.'