POLICE have spoken of their shock at the age of children they are finding drinking alcohol in north Durham – with booze seized from some as young as 12.

Officers are urging parents to take note of where their children are after the worrying trend emerged during Operation Aries - a multi-agency crackdown on under-age drinking and anti-social behaviour launched in July.

Police Officers, PCSO’s and local authority street wardens reported seizing alcohol from children as young as 12-years-old as well as older teenagers.

Large quantities of alcohol confiscated included Lambrini, lager and cider.

Sergeant Mick Urwin of Durham Constabulary’s Alcohol Harm Reduction Unit and project manager for Operation Aries said: “Over the summer holiday period and beyond we have seen a concerning growing trend of 12 and 13-year olds being found together with the 15 and 16-years-old, where alcohol is being consumed.

“This has accounted for 20 per cent of the young people engaged within the Stanley and Consett areas, where each one has been referred for alcohol intervention work.

“I would like to ask that parents and carers make note of where their children are and who they are hanging around with.

“There are the obvious heath risks, but also the of children finding themselves in unintentionally vulnerable or risky situations, such as walking to the road and getting knocked over.”

He added: “We know that most of the alcohol we take off young people is bought for them by adults.

“Where we have evidence to show that an adult has bought or supplied a person under the age of 18 with alcohol we will issue a penalty notice of £90.

“We also have the option of summonsing that person to court and if convicted they will end up with a criminal record.”

Shoppers over the last weekend will have received leaflets outlining the consequences of buying alcohol for those under 18.

The Co-op placed them in shopping bags at its tills whilst Asda and Tesco included them in home deliveries.

Sgt Urwin said: "We have done a lot of work over the last two years in the schools, targeting children from 14 to 15 years olds to try and get the message across.

“Certainly, from our point of view, we are now looking at whether we need to be targeting them earlier than that.”