by John Harrington
Mitchells & Butlers has vowed to review procedures for preventing under-age sales following the inquest into the death of a 16-year-old who crashed his mother's car after drinking at an M&B pub.
The father of teenager Jak Sullivan had warned staff at the Scott Arms in Great Barr in the West Midlands just weeks before the incident that Sullivan and friends were under 18, it was revealed during the inquest at Black Country Coroner's Court last week.
The court heard that Sullivan, of Ray Hall Lane, Great Barr, had been drinking at the pub with his friend, Nicholas Cox, of St John's Close, from 7pm on 7 May.
Sullivan's father Andy said his son returned home at around 11pm and sat with his mother Joanne. After she went to bed at midnight, Jak took her BMW and crashed it into a lamp post and speed camera on Newton Road.
Sullivan, who was twice the legal drink-drive limit, was declared dead in the early hours of 8 May. A verdict of accidental death was recorded.
Coroner Robin Balmain said: "The licensing laws were clearly not upheld. I do not underestimate the difficulties in enforcing the law, but this is a matter of some concern and I shall be writing to the licensing justices."
M&B said: "Along with friends and family, we are deeply saddened by the death of Jak Sullivan on 8 May, 2004.
"From our investigations, we know that Jak was in the pub that evening, and we know that he was seen with one drink. We are concerned that he was under-age and are reviewing all of our procedures with a view to tightening them further, as we have done recently with the re-launch of our Alcohol and Social Responsibility policy.
"We are studying carefully the coroner's comments, and will take the necessary action as a result. As the coroner acknowledged, the Scott Arms received a significant refurbishment over the summer and is under new management, with tightened operational procedures. Families are welcome during the day, but the pub operates a strict over-21s policy after 7pm.
"Mitchells & Butlers takes seriously its role as a responsible drinks retailer, enforced through a comprehensive policy, which includes strict guidelines on the responsible operation of our outlets; the sale and promotion of alcohol; our under-18s policy and our staff training programmes."