Get up to speed with false ID at your pub

By Jonathan Smith

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Passport

Update: Pubs advised to check new guidance on false ID
Update: Pubs advised to check new guidance on false ID
I couldn’t help but smile when I read the recent reports of false ID being used in a pub in Newquay, Cornwall. Doorstaff apparently became suspicious when a youngster tried to enter the pub using Rodney Trotter’s driving licence — he of Only Fools and Horses fame — complete with a date of birth that would have made him 52 years old, and a mugshot of Del Boy’s lovable brother to boot.

False ID? Don’t be a plonker
Needless to say the cheeky youth was refused entry and the police were called, but ‘Cosmic’ (as he signed his name) had absconded before they arrived (I assume in a yellow Robin Reliant).

The tale is enough to raise a smile among even the most harassed of licensees but the reality of false ID is, of course, no joke, which is why the Home Office’s recently-published revised guidance on false ID is timely.

The guidance — clear, and with lots of pictures (although a little wordy at 46 pages) — is really worth a read. It can be found on the Home Office website but I thought a brief summary here might be helpful.

There are five types of false ID — genuine documents that are being used by someone else (e.g. big brother’s driving licence); genuine documents that have been altered (big brother’s driving licence with younger brother’s photo); fraudulently obtained documents (a youngster lies to the DVLA or the Passport Office to obtain genuine ID); fake copies of genuine ID and, lastly, fake documents of a form of ID that doesn’t exist. The perennial problem for operators and doorstaff is trying to tell the fake from the genuine on a busy night.
The guidance contains an excellent diagrammatic explanation of the different elements of all Home Office–preferred ID: Proof of Age Standards Scheme (PASS)–approved cards, passports, driving licences and (since March 2011) UK military identification cards. These all bear the same core features: a photo, hologram and date of birth.

The Government encourages licensees to use the PASS–approved cards but acknowledges that many other forms of ID meet the requirement of the mandatory licence condition to have an age-verification policy.

Check your licence: unless a specific condition requires you only to accept these forms of ID, then you’re free to accept others. Personally, I would stick with passports, driving licences, military ID and PASS–approved cards.

These are widely recognised and understood by operators, doorstaff and customers. There is additional helpful information on how to
read foreign passports (these are also acceptable).\

Fake ID consists of the so-called ‘UK national identification card’, which is made to look like a driving licence; the international or European driving permit; and a provisional motorcycle permit. None of these documents exist.

False ID websites appear to know no bounds to their imagination. There are international student cards, EU works permit cards, freelance reporter cards, international age cards, student offers cards — the list goes on.

Only the police and other authorities have legal powers to seize false ID. However, the guidance suggests that staff can ask for false ID to be handed over while informing the customer that, if it is not, police may be called to investigate an offence relating to its use.

A ‘bailment’ form, pioneered by South Yorkshire Police, seems to be the flavour of the week — one section is torn off and given to the customer when the false ID is handed over to staff or doorstaff.

The guidance also contains useful information on how false ID should be stored, both by the premises and subsequently by police.
Always check ID in a well–lit area.

If something seems amiss, ask the customer what their star sign, postcode or date of birth is — under pressure, these often don’t tally with what’s on the card. Alternatively, ask for another form of ID — say a bank or student card.

An interesting annex describes a six-month trial of the IDscan technology in Sutton, south London. In that period there were 7,200 age challenges and 439 refused sales by participating premises — and not a single failed test purchase.

In the same period more than 15 non-participating premises failed. Admittedly, these were all off-licences but we’re likely to hear more calls for such systems by police and trading standards, based on this evidence, in future.

Another good reason to make sure that your age-verification policy is up to the task.

Download the guidance at

Related topics: Licensing law

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