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WIBU to confront licence holder who sold whisky to my brother?

(64 Posts)
shockthemonkey Thu 11-Feb-16 14:08:01

My brother has been drinking 2 litres of whisky a day for a year. He has refused to let us visit him, and stopped answering the phone to me a long time ago. Family finally managed (with profressional help) to gain access to his house and get him into hospital. His prognosis is not good.

I found bank statements and marched into the off-licence where he has been buying his drink for the past year. This shop continued selling 2 litres of whisky a day to someone who was visibly deteriorating in front of their eyes and very obviously had a serious problem. I showed them a picture of my brother and told them I would make sure they lost their licence if they ever sold to him again (actually my brother is unlikely to return to live there anyway). It got heated (the proprietor wanted to know why I was not looking after him! said it was no concern of hers who was a chronic alcoholic and who wasn't: it was our problem -- never mind that we don't live in the same country and have families of our own to look after!).

I'd just like to know where the law stands on this; the granting of a licence implies some duty of care, I should think, but how far does this extend? I would imagine the main concern is public safety, nuisance and underage drinking -- not in fact concerns arising from my brother's case as he is an adult and very mild-mannered. But it would seem crazy if there were no expectation of ethical conduct that went along with the granting of a licence.

I just cannot get over that this woman felt no guilt about it all -- thanks to her inaction my brother will probably die quite soon. Fine, she's lacking a moral compass, but what about the law? I don't want to pursue the matter as it happens, but would like to know for future reference, should anything similar ever happen again.

Thanks if you can give me some info.

vestandknickers Thu 11-Feb-16 14:14:12

I can completely understand why you're upset, but it is not fair to put the blame on this woman. She is not responsible for your brother's illness any more than you are. Surely if he hadn't have bought his whisky there he would have found somewhere else.

MTPurse Thu 11-Feb-16 14:14:12

Surely it is not the shopkeepers responsibility?

Where would she draw the line?

Stopping obese people from buying junk food?
Stopping smokers with a cough from buying cigarettes?
Stopping Mothers from buying baby milk as 'breast is best'?

She is running a business not a care establishment.

I'm sorry about your brother op but I do understand the shopkeeper too. thanks

Oysterbabe Thu 11-Feb-16 14:14:47

He'd just buy it somewhere else. I think unless he's drunk when buying it they aren't technically doing anything wrong.

ComposHatComesBack Thu 11-Feb-16 14:15:44

In England and Wales you can't sell alcohol to

A) a minor
B) a policeman in uniform
C) a known prostitute
D) someone already intoxicated

So unless your brother is turning up absolutely roaring drunk they are not breaking the law. Nor do I think they are morally responsible. Your brother is an adult and making a choice. It may not be the choice we would make, but the shopkeeper isn't tipping the whisky down his neck.

anorakgirl Thu 11-Feb-16 14:20:21

I used to work in an off licence and as PP have said, you are raging at the wrong person. And I would assume had she refused to serve him he would have simply gone elsewhere.

I understand you are angry at the situation but you cannot blame the shopkeeper

PaulAnkaTheDog Thu 11-Feb-16 14:22:48

I'm sorry but what you did is totally unacceptable. You've probably embarrassed the woman horribly. Your brothers alcohol problems are not her concern, I'd expect part of her reaction was being defensive because of this. I hope you and your family can help your brother overcome his addiction but you cannot go round bollocking shop keepers. Focus on helping your brother flowers

TheSultanofPingu Thu 11-Feb-16 14:23:13

Sorry, but YABU

I too can understand why you're upset, believe me. My eldest brother is an alcholic, who seven years ago was where your brother is now. It's heartbreaking. He admitted himself to hospital only when his money ran out.

Your brother would have just gone elsewhere for his whisky.

ItsAllGoingToBeFine Thu 11-Feb-16 14:23:47

It is not the shopkeepers fault. I understand you are upset and angry, but this is not their fault. flowers

Yankeetarts Thu 11-Feb-16 14:27:40

It's not the shop keepers fault,I'm sure if she didn't serve him he would of found somewhere else to buy from.

grannytomine Thu 11-Feb-16 14:30:01

I thought you were going to say he was underage and I was going to agree with you, when my son was 15/16 he was regularly buying booze for his friends, for some reason because he was tall he wasn't challenged on his age where his friends, more average height were. I found it bizarre and told them I was going to the police if they did it again.

It is really difficult if it is an adult although I do remember my mother, she was a publican, serving some really drunk guys "shots" of water that they were convinced were whisky. The following day they came in looking sorry for themselves as they had spent all their Christmas pay. They were very happy when they got the refund, although I suppose she could get done for fraud or something now. It was quite funny though as they were handing over fivers and tenners for a small glass of water.

UntilTheCowsComeHome Thu 11-Feb-16 14:30:02

I work in a shop selling alcohol.

A regular customer is an alcoholic. Her family came in the shop to ask us to stop selling booze to her. The next time she came in I told her that her family didn't want her buying alcohol and perhaps she should go home and phone someone for some support. She screamed and swore at me before breaking down and sobbing her heart out. As much as I felt for her I'm not a counsellor or care worker and I didn't know what to do at all.

When you're paid minimum wage you shouldn't have to be worrying about who you're selling to, so long as we're not breaking the law.

It's not yours or the licence holders fault your DB is an alcoholic. flowers

WineOrSleep Thu 11-Feb-16 14:33:22


I'm sorry about your brother, truly, but as previous posters have already said, it's is your brother's fault, not the shopkeepers.

And quite frankly, you were rude and should apologise to the shopkeeper

OneEpisode Thu 11-Feb-16 14:33:26

flowers for you and your brother.

You might be legally correct.

"Drunk or intoxicated
If a potential customer appears to be under the influence of drink or drugs you must refuse to serve without any further discussion.

Point out to [the customer] that you could lose your job by serving them in their present condition and advise them to return at another time.

When a refusal has taken place you should record this fact either by completing a refusal or incident book or by recording it on the till, if it has this facility. This is recognised as best practice; it shows that you are a responsible retailer and can be given in evidence at a later stage should you be accused of selling an age-restricted product to an underage person. This is, therefore, a very valuable system for you to use and affords both you and the store some protection. You can write a brief description of the incident in the book with the name or description of the person refused. If the shop is busy at the time the incident occurs, make the entry in the book as soon as you can.
You must ensure that the entry is always made
Trading standards, police or council licensing officers will expect to see your incident book if they visit your store. It is a vital piece of due diligence to prove that you are upholding the law."
From off-licencee training.

AlwaysHopeful1 Thu 11-Feb-16 14:34:09

I get that you are upset but you had no right to do that. You are lucky he didn't have you arrested. Don't dump the responsibility onto the shopkeeper as your brother is an adult. Anyone can easily turn around and say well he's your brother why didn't you stop him from drinking? See it's not right to place this responsibility on anyone else but the person themselves.

grannytomine Thu 11-Feb-16 14:34:37

UntilTheCowsComeHome that must have been horrible. Did you sell her any? It must be awful to be so desperate for a drink.

PaulAnkaTheDog Thu 11-Feb-16 14:36:11

I'd assume the OPs brother is going in to buy alcohol for drinking daily, so probably not intoxicated when in store. So the woman has no reason not to serve him.

BillSykesDog Thu 11-Feb-16 14:36:13

If your brother is drinking to that extent, stopping suddenly because nobody would sell booze to him would probably have killed him anyway.

What you're going through is awful, and I understand you need to direct your anger somewhere, but this probably wasn't the right place.

Have you thought about contacting Al-Anon? They support the families of people with alcohol problems:

Peppapigallowsmetoshower Thu 11-Feb-16 14:37:49

Yes you were being unreasonable. It's not their job to take care of your brother. He's an adult, he made his choice.

Would you have marched down to MacDonalds if he were morbidly obese from eating 4 Big Mac meals every day? Would you have marched down to the grocers that sold him cigarettes if he developed lung cancer?

I understand why you're upset and I'm sorry to hear that he's so unwell, it's a shame that he couldn't be helped sooner but raging at a shop won't bring you any sense of peace.

ZiggyFartdust Thu 11-Feb-16 14:38:14

YABU. You can't blame this woman for your brothers health. You know well he would have just got it somewhere else anyway.

Bailey101 Thu 11-Feb-16 14:38:22

License holder's duty of care only extends as far as not serving a noticeably intoxicated person - if your brother was buying alcohol first thing when he was silk fairly sober she's done nothing wrong.

It's awful that your brothers in this situation, but the shopkeeper was right in saying that you should look a little closer to home to lay blame before attacking her. She's running a shop, not an AA meeting, and she can't be expected to be responsible for other people's sobriety.

susurration Thu 11-Feb-16 14:38:47

The thing is, if she stops selling to him someone else will end up selling to him. He is an alcoholic, he won't stop drinking unless he wants to help himself. That is nothing to do with the woman. She could refuse to sell to him, thus assuaging her guilt and doing what you want her to do, but he'll buy it from somewhere else. He may even end up being pushed into drink driving just to get to somewhere that will sell to him and that is worse because he is endangering others, not just himself.

I'm sorry its so shitty, and that your brother is so ill. But it's not the lady in the shop's fault. When you're perhaps in a better frame of mind it might be kind if you apologise to them.

Honestly. If you want someone to help your brother that needs to be the GP or an addiction clinic.

shockthemonkey Thu 11-Feb-16 14:42:38

Thanks for the support. I have spent ten years, hundreds of man-hours and thousands of pounds trying to save my brother, so I do think I am focusing on helping him, thanks. He lived with me for six months, that's a lot of care as he is not very self-sufficient... I have flown thirteen hours each way to come to his aid and bring him back home, or paid to have interventionists accompany him business class across the Atlantic. I have also shed many many tears. I have no money left for this problem after the Priory, Betty Ford and another clinic in Thailand (cannot remember name)... four professional interventions, two private hospitals and numerous detox centres. You cannot imagine the time, money and emotion that has gone into the whole problem already, and not just by me but also my mother and sisters.

When we arrived to get him this last time, my brother was so unwell he could hardly stand. He would definitely not have made it to the second nearest off-licence had this shop refused to serve him, or even just bothered to do anything more than take his money and turn a blind eye. And since he was drinking two litres of whisky a day, he would have been drunk constantly... drunk enough to refuse to serve, if you bothered to take a proper look.

It's not the same as an overweight person buying a Mars bar.

Compos, I thought that may have been the position legally. Thanks for clarifying. As I say, two litres of 40% proof a day, he was never actually sober.

PaulAnkaTheDog Thu 11-Feb-16 14:46:24

OP my friends father was an alcoholic and drank similar at the height of his addiction. I'd sometimes see him in the shops on a Saturday morning "stocking up" and if you didn't know him you wouldn't have known he was an alcoholic. He just looked like a tired guy. So, I'm sorry but the woman isn't necessarily serving him whilst he is obviously intoxicated. It sounds like you have done a heck of a lot to help your brother, I just hope you find something that works. flowers

shockthemonkey Thu 11-Feb-16 14:46:34

Oh and thanks Bill, I have done Al-anon and really should do it again.

It's all getting way too much for me.

He won't do GP or addition clinic. He's too far gone really.

Re stopping suddenly, he's done that a few times, and you're right it's dangerous and often in his case leads to seizures. But he does it anyway.

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