The Wine & Spirit Association (WSA) has spoken out against the latest announcement on the prison sentencing of alcohol smugglers.
Last week the Sentencing Advisory Panel, an independent public body charged by the Home Office with encouraging consistency of sentencing, announced that alcohol smuggling and bootlegging "is a non-violent, non-sexual offence with no personal victim".
The result is that the Panel has recommended that smaller-scale smugglers should be given more lenient sentences or community service.
Quentin Rappoport, director of the WSA, said: "However small scale, alcohol smuggling is not a victimless crime. Bootlegged alcohol has the potential to get into the hands of underage drinkers since it is a totally unregulated route to market, and this is a matter for serious concern, with wide social consequences.
"This announcement is yet another example of policy makers fiddling at the edges but not getting to the heart of the matter.
"Disproportionately high duty is the reason that smuggling is a problem in the UK. The Government needs to bring our excise rates in line with our European neighbours in order to stamp out bootlegging."