Police face legal challenge over Buckfast anti-crime labels

Buckfast's distributor believes the labels are illegal

The distributors of Buckfast are taking legal action against Strathclyde Police in a bid to stop the force adding its own anti-crime labels to bottles of the tonic wine.


If whisky is Scotland's national alcoholic drink, Buckfast must be the most notorious tipple consumed here.

It's produced by Benedictine monks in Devon but is regularly linked to the crime and anti-social behaviour of drunks in Scotland.

In 2010, Strathclyde Police said it had been mentioned in more than 5,000 crime reports in the previous three years.

Buckfast's distributor, J Chandler & Co, says it's not the drink that is irresponsible but those drinkers who consume it to excess.

It argues that "buckie", as it's known, is unfairly stigmatised by politicians and the police.

Ministers from Helen Liddell, when she was Scottish secretary, to the current justice secretary, Kenny MacAskill, have highlighted Buckfast as a problem drink.

Strathclyde Police issues special stickers to some off-licences. These are attached to bottles of Buckfast and some other brands.

The police marks are used to trace bottles used in crime, or found with underage drinkers, back to the stores from which they were bought.

J Chandler & Co says this is hurting its brand and its sales, although Buckfast appears to be bucking economic trends, recording record sales worth more than £39m in 2011/12.

The company is now asking the courts to intervene to stop bottle marking. Buckfast's legal battle with the police promises to be a fascinating case.

J Chandler & Co wants a judge to stop bottle marking because the company says the practice stigmatises the brand.

The firm is due to lodge a case at the court of session on Friday.

Strathclyde Police said it was unable to comment before receiving a court summons.

In 2010, the force said the tonic wine had been mentioned in more than 5,000 crime reports over the previous three years.

It asks some retailers to attach police stickers to bottles of Buckfast and some other alcoholic drinks.

This allows officers to trace bottles associated with crime back to the store from which they were purchased.

However, Buckfast's distributor believes the practice is illegal and discriminates against its brand.

Lawyers for J Chandler & Co will ask a judge to find that Strathclyde Police has unlawfully encouraged retailers to label bottles of Buckfast or withdraw the product from sale.

It is not clear what evidence they will present in court.

If the case is deemed competent by a judge, the police will be summoned to respond.

The force said: "We haven't received any summons yet and as such we are unable to comment."

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

BBC Glasgow & West



Min. Night 0 °C

Features & Analysis

  • Baby in boxStrange case

    The remarkable appeal of the Finnish baby boxes

  • WW1 gas mask being demonstratedTrench terror

    Did the soldiers of WW1 have an irrational fear of poison gas?

  • Mitt Romney, speaks at the podium as he concedes the presidency during Mitt Romney's campaign election night event at the Boston Convention 7 November 2012Aura of a loser?

    Mitt Romney looked presidential but could never pull it off

  • A woman holds up a feminist sign.PC virus

    Is liberal speech policing out of control?

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • ReadingBest books

    BBC Culture takes a look at ten books you should read in February


  • A car being driven by Cruise Automation technologyClick Watch

    The tech which could allow any car with an automatic gearbox to become self-driving

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.