Calls to close a legal loophole allowing kids easy access to alcohol have resulted in death threats for a grieving couple. Andrew and Diana Gill's "smart and sensitive" 14-year-old son Josh died in horrific circumstances last year. He was alone, drunk and in the back of a stranger's car when it caught alight. In the 10 hours before his death on August 15, 2021, police say Josh went into three bottle shops and stole a 24-case of Vodka Cruisers, two bottles of Johnny Walker Black Label whisky and two 10 packs of Jim Beam Black cans. The Sydney teen had been struggling with mental health issues for 18 months, and he'd turned to alcohol and drugs to "escape life" he told his parents at the time. He might have been too young to drink alcohol, but accessing it was far too easy, his parents told ACM. Josh was well known among friends for his ability to steal alcohol and get away with it. He simply walked in, took what he wanted and walked out, a police statement to the Coroner said. In NSW it is legal for juveniles to be in a bottle shop, they do not have to have a responsible adult with them. This is the law the Gills are hoping to change. By comparison, in Victoria minors are only allowed in bottle shops if they are with a responsible adult, or if they are employed to work on the licensed premises, but not involved in the sale of liquor. Since the Gills started their campaign for legislative change they have received death threats and been called woke. IN OTHER NEWS The Gills say they like a drink as much as the next person, but what they don't understand is how they're considered "woke" when they simply want to keep kids safe and away from alcohol. "How on earth have we got to the point where protecting kids equals someone being woke?" Mr Gill asked. "Why are they [bottle shops] allowed to make so much money and not exercise any reasonable precaution in the sale and supply of alcohol." The Gills believe bottle shops do not report all thefts, but spokespeople from Coles Group (owner of Liquorland, 1st Choice, Vintage Cellars) and Endeavour Group (owner of BWS and Dan Murphy's) say their policy is to report thefts. Josh was never charged for stealing alcohol and NSW police declined to comment on whether the teen's thefts were reported. In 2021, the rate of thefts by minors from licensed venues in Josh's Northern Beaches local government area was more than twice the NSW average. Rates are also much higher than the state average in Eurobodalla (more than eight times the state average), Newcastle (almost triple), and approximately double in Coffs Harbour, Albury and Goulburn Mulwaree LGAs. Wollongong and Shoalhaven's rates are 1.5 times the NSW average. Not only should juveniles be banned from bottle shops, the Gills say hard spirits, which are often near the shop's entry/exit, should be moved behind a counter or put in cabinets. Or, security caps could be fixed to bottles that can only be opened by someone at the checkout. "You go into Bunnings and you try and buy a can of spray paint and it's behind a cage. You go into a knife store, knives are behind a counter," Mr Gill said. Coles Group and Endeavour Group said they have a policy to check the ID of anyone who looks under 25, and ask them to leave if they are under 18. "We have preventive security measures to deter theft, which in some stores include CCTV cameras, 24hr alarm systems which are monitored off site, security film on glass, placing spirits behind lockable glass and duress pendants for all team members," the Coles Group spokeswoman said. The Endeavour Group spokeswoman said: "We have an extensive set of preventative security measures in our stores to deter crime, and our security team is constantly reviewing and updating these". "Unfortunately, like all retailers, crime is something we face as part of our operations," she said. This week, Liquor and Gaming NSW released a survey on potential liquor licensing reforms and the public are urged to have their say. "The paper will seek feedback on options to ban minors from entering packaged liquor premises and the liquor sales area of supermarkets, unless accompanied by a responsible adult," a spokeswoman said. "This change would work alongside other measures to increase protections that aim to prevent minors from accessing packaged liquor. It could also help to reduce instances where unaccompanied minors are on packaged liquor premises with the intent of obtaining liquor with fake ID or by theft." Mr Gill urged people to complete the survey, but before they do to consider one question: Is this the sort of place they want kids to enter without an adult? "If we had the laws that we propose Josh would be here today, absolutely. He wouldn't have been allowed in," he said. "I want kids to be safe, safe from themselves and as much as we can I would like to agitate, ventilate for the laws to be changed so that what happened to our beautiful little man does not happen to other beautiful young children." Make a submission to Liquor and Gaming NSW's survey on licensing reforms at: haveyoursay.nsw.gov.au/liquor-licensing-reform Support is available for those who may be distressed. Phone Lifeline 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline 1800 551 800.