SEVEN hundred children have been caught this year trying to get into Sheffield’s pubs and clubs using fake ID, police have revealed.
Bouncers have seized birth certificates, passports and driving licences from youngsters trying to pass themselves off as somebody else - often an older friend or relative.
Now the Sheffield crackdown - a joint operation run by police, pubs and clubs - has won the attention of the Home Office, and could be copied as ‘best practice’ in cities and towns across the country.
Many of the Sheffield youngsters found trying to pass off fake ID have been sent to ‘restorative justice’ workshops to educate them about the consequences - potentially a criminal record for fraud, or putting bars out of business if owners lose their licences.
It is hoped the crackdown will cut alcohol-fuelled disorder in the city centre - and avoid children being put through the courts.
But those caught twice could still be prosecuted, police have warned.
PC Matthew Burdett, of the City Centre Safer Neighbourhood Team, said: “The Home Office found out about what we are doing here in Sheffield and is now rolling this out as good practice across the country.
“We are using restorative justice as a way of dealing with young people we find with fake ID, because we don’t want to criminalise them.
“Instead we want to educate them about the consequences of their actions - not only what having a criminal conviction will mean for them in future, but the impact their actions can have on bars and clubs.
“If premises are found with underage customers we can apply for a 48-hour closure and a review of the licence and ultimately they could be forced to close.
“Our hope is not only will the workshops be rolled out across South Yorkshire, but we would like to see them being run in schools to get the message across to young people before they start trying to get into bars and clubs.”
Inspector Alex Murthi added: “Instead of criminalising young people, the scheme will offer education about the law and the consequences of a criminal record, and explain the effects underage drinking can have on health, on personal safety - and on licensed premises.”
But he warned: “This is a one-off opportunity - anyone caught a second time could be dealt with by way of criminal prosecution.”
Scott Bailey from Plug nightclub on Matilda Street is also chairman of U-night - a group of bar and club representatives who meet police and licensing officials once a month to discuss issues of concern.
He said: “This is proving to be a fantastic success.
“Licensees were pushing for a scheme to help us deal with the issue, because the days are gone of people downloading fake European driving licences from the internet.
“Now people are just borrowing passports and driving licences belonging to friends, brothers and sisters, hoping to pass themselves off as older than they are.”
He added: “Nobody wants to see young people criminalised, but they do need to realise the consequences of their actions.”
Older friends and relatives who have allowed their ID to be used by youngsters are also being asked to attend the workshops.
Sheffield’s Drug and Alcohol Action Team is also involved, along with substance misuse service The Corner and Sheffield’s Safeguarding Children Board.