The law is a bit complicated when it comes to alcohol, so it’s worth knowing what you can and can’t do and what happens if you break the rules.

You can get a criminal record for offences of drunkenness. Being drunk is no excuse if you end up in court on a charge of criminal damage or violence.


Age limits

  5 and up May consume alcohol at home with adult supervision.
  Under 14’s Can go into a pub with a children’s certificate, but must be with an adult and stay in the garden or family room.
  Under 16’s Can go into a restaurant where alcohol is served and at licensee’s discretion may consume (but not purchase) alcohol bought by a parent or guardian as long as it is with a meal.
  16-17 May purchase beer, port, cider or perry in an eating area on licensed premises (in Scotland this applies to wine too) as long as it is with a meal.
  Any age No person may buy or attempt to buy intoxicating liquor for consumption in a bar by a person under the age of 18. Maximum fine 1,000.



Drink driving

It is an offence to drive with more than the following amounts of alcohol in your body:

  • 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood, or
  • 35 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath if a breath test is used.

This can't be measured in units or drinks because people’s bodies deal with alcohol at different rates. To be on the safe side, people who plan to drive should not drink any alcohol.

Maximum fine 5,000 and/or up to 6 months imprisonment, mandatory disqualification for at least 12 months for first offence, at least 3 years for second offence within 10 years.

    Drinking in public

Police have powers to confiscate alcohol from you if you are drinking in public, they can then contact your parents. Maximum fine 500 if you refuse to co-operate.