THE distributor of Buckfast tonic wine is hitting back at the alleged stigmatisation of its brand by police.

Hampshire-based J Chandler & Co is taking legal action against Strathclyde Police after claiming the force was treating the product unfairly by attaching anti-crime labels to bottles.

The labels are designed to allow the police to trace bottles found on the street back to the shop in which they were purchased, in order to identify any off-licence selling to underage drinkers or detect those who have purchased the drink and are later suspected of a crime.

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In 2010, the force said the tonic wine had been mentioned in more than 5000 crime reports over the previous three years. It would like to see some retailers attach police stickers to bottles of Buckfast, which has an alcohol content of 15% and carries caffeine as another ingredient.

It is not the only drink to be targeted by the measure. 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.

If the case is deemed competent by a judge, the police will be summoned. The force said: "We haven't received any summons yet and as such we are unable to comment."

Despite the claims of stigmatisation, Buckfast, which is made by Benedictine monks in Devon, appears to be bucking economic trends and recently posted record sales worth more than £39 million in 2011/12, up £1.3m on the year before.

Scottish Labour has previously called for drinks with high alcohol and caffeine contents, such as Buckfast, to be banned.