Q&A: Minors and alcohol at parties

The festive season is just around the corner. If you're wondering about your teenage children, their friends and what's right and wrong when it comes to alcohol consumption by a minor at private parties, our solicitor Luisa has the answer.

Q:

I have a couple of teenage children who are being invited to various social gatherings, many of which I suspect involve alcohol. I am not so naive to assume that nothing is going to happen, but what is the legal obligation of the parent host of a teenage birthday party where kids turn up with alcohol? I presume that the parents might be placing themselves in a bad position without knowing what the legal implications are?

A:

The short answer

The legal drinking age in Australia is 18. Alcohol may be served (or brought and consumed by) minors on private premises (e.g. a house party) provided that certain conditions are met. You must:

Ensure you have written permission from the parent of guardian (for example, a letter, email or text message). This is essential regardless of if alcohol is being supplied at the event, or brought independently.

You must comply with the 'responsible supervision of a minor' provisions:

  • You must make food available.
  • You must not be intoxicated while supplying the minor.
  • You must be responsibly supervising the minor's consumption of liquor.

Consider other factors listed under 'responsible supervision of a minor' provisions: 

  • The age of the minor.
  • The type and quality of alcohol supplied.
  • The extent of time alcohol is made available.

More information is available at: 


The details

People under the age of 18 years are prohibited from:

  • Obtaining, consuming or carrying away liquor from a licensed premises;
  • Consuming alcohol in public spaces such as parks or beaches;
  • Consuming alcohol in unlicensed spaces (such as restaurants) unless in the company and with permission of a parent or guardian.

There is no law which creates an offence relating to the minor drinking on private premises.

There are however laws relating to the supply of alcohol to minors, on private premises.

S 117 (6) of the Liquor Act 2007 (NSW) states it is an offence to obtain liquor from a licensed premises on behalf of a minor unless the person is a parent or guardian of the minor. Penalty: $11,000 and/or 12 months imprisonment.

  • S 117 (7): A defence is available if the defendant was authorised to obtain liquor on behalf of the minor by the parent or guardian of the minor.

Under S 117 (4) of the Liquor Act 2007 (NSW): It is an offence to supply minors with liquor on any premises unless:

  • The person is a parent or guardian of the minor, or is authorised to supply liquor to the minor by a parent or guardian of the minor, and
  • The supply is consistent with the responsible supervision of the minor.
  • A maximum court imposed penalty of $11,000 and/or 12 months imprisonment applies.
  • Additionally, on the spot fines of $1,000 apply per minor served. 

Regardless of consent or permission, 'responsible supervision of a minor' principles apply. These are listed under S 117 (5) of the Liquor Act 2007 (NSW):

  • The age of the minor.
  • Whether the person supplying the liquor is intoxicated.
  • Whether the minor is consuming the liquor with food.
  • Whether the person is supplying the liquor is supervising the minor's consumption responsibly.
  • The quantity and type of liquor supplied.
  • The period of time over which it is supplied.
  • Such other matters as may be prescribed by the regulations.

Additionally:

  • Consent should be in writing, as it must be capable of being proved in court.
  • This applies regardless of if alcohol is being supplied or independently brought. 

If you have been charged, or need advice in relation to a criminal law matter, please contact our Criminal Law Hotline on 02 8324 7527 to arrange a free initial consultation today.

This article first appeared online at SimplyAskIt.