THE Goddard Arms pub, in Old Town, has been allowed to keep its premises licence after being caught selling alcohol to a 17-year-old girl.

The venue in the High Street, whose premises licence is held by Bramwell Pubs and Bars Ltd, came under the scrutiny of Swindon Council’s licensing panel yesterday after failing a Wiltshire Police test purchase operation on October 27, 2012.

Two 17-year-old volunteers – a girl and a boy – entered at 8.10pm and were not asked for ID or challenged by door staff. At the bar, the girl was served a Smirnoff Ice, but the same member of staff refused to serve the boy.

Coun Andrew Bennett (Con, Ridgeway), the panel’s chairman, said councillors considered the sale of alcohol to children to be very serious and did consider revoking or suspending the premises licence, but decided this was not appropriate considering the management systems the venue had in place and its co-operation with police.

PC Andy Alexander, a police licensing officer, said: “During the latest test purchases, we noted that the overall results in Old Town were quite high with four of the eight venues failing – that’s just the Old Town area.

“Of these fails, three had failed on at least one previous test purchase. All four venues that failed had a similar training package, appeared to deliver it regularly, and were actually similar to some of those which passed. “Of these three which failed, we didn’t know where the training programme had not worked.”

Jonathan Hyldon, the lawyer for Bramwell Pubs and Bars Ltd, said the premises has passed all test purchases since 2010, with the exception of October 2012.

He said that following the underage sale, the same member of staff almost immediately refused to serve the boy, clearly showing that staff were looking out for under age drinkers and were refusing service.

He said disciplinary action was taken against this staff member, and a independent testing company was commissioned to undertake covert test purchases by people aged under 21, with staff asking for ID on all eight occasions since October.

He said this staff member genuinely thought the girl was much older and this was why he did not ask for ID under the venue’s Challenge 21 policy.

He said: “When the disciplinary procedures took place, the gentleman in question was of the opinion that she was not just 20 or even 17, but was 21 or over. “That’s why the Challenge 21 was not brought into effect. The male he refused to serve because he thought he was under 18.”

Councillors were shown a photo of the girl.

Coun Alan Bishop (Con, Blunsdon and Highworth) said: “I have always considered the Goddards to be a well-run establishment for the older generation. “You don’t get a lot of youngsters in there. I have been there with PubWatch and a 17-year-old girl could be going on 23.”

As a sanction, the panel decided the pub must follow a Challenge 25 policy, meaning staff must ask for ID from anyone who appears to be under 25.