Shop owners warned about illegal knife sales

Knives that have been involved in crime
Knives that have been involved in crime

Shop owners are being warned after new figures out today reveal that nearly one in four stores are breaking the law on underage knife sales.

In some areas, blades are being sold to children as young as 13, in research released by council trading standards.

Despite most retailers passing test purchases of knives, trading standards teams at councils across the country are uncovering some shocking abuses of the law

Coun Simon Blackburn

In test purchases an underage teenager was sold a machete, another was sold a lock knife and a 14-year-old managed to buy a nine-inch serrated knife. It is illegal to sell knives to anyone aged under 18.

The Local Government Association, of which Wigan Council is a member, said the worrying findings come as latest official figures show a 20 per cent annual rise in knife crime in England and Wales.

Following the recent government proposal to ban home delivery of knives to prevent underage sales, the LGA is calling for the retail industry to fund underage test purchasing operations and work more closely with councils to help improve compliance levels.

The LGA says greater fines and tougher sentences are also needed for irresponsible retailers breaking knife sale laws.

Trading standards teams at local councils have been alarmed at the results of some of their test purchases to ensure retailers are complying with the law. Findings and follow-up enforcement include:

Seven out of 29 shops (nearly one in four), including two major supermarket chains, sold a knife to a person under 18 in test purchases. Blades sold included a machete, a lock knife and kitchen knives. A nine-inch serrated knife was sold to a 14-year-old.

Four retailers, including a major supermarket chain, sold either razor blades or craft knives to a 15-year-old boy and a 16-year-old boy, in separate test purchases.

A trader who sold a four-piece craft knife set to two underage teenagers has been ordered to pay more than £2,000 in fines and costs following a prosecution.

Although most retailers passed test purchases on underage knife sales, council trading standards teams remain concerned with those who broke the law, particularly when latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show there were 34,703 recorded knife crimes in 2016/17, a 20 per cent increase on the previous year.Those who failed test purchases have either been prosecuted or cautioned, face prosecution or have received warnings and compliance advice on underage knife sales.

Coun Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “Despite most retailers passing test purchases of knives, trading standards teams at councils across the country are uncovering some shocking abuses of the law.

“Knives are lethal weapons in the wrong hands and it’s vital that shops do all they can to prevent them falling into the hands of young people because just one illegal knife sale could have tragic consequences.

“Knife crime has risen significantly in the past year. Clearly there are many different ways that people access knives, whether from home, high street stores or online sales, but we need to make sure that the retail supply of knives is managed robustly across all sales points.

“The recent government announcement on collection points for online knife sales is an encouraging step, but needs to be backed up with action on the high street where the sale of knives needs to be checked consistently, by asking for proof of age if a retailer is unsure the buyer is under 18. With councils experiencing ongoing funding pressures, we are calling on the retail industry to step up and fund underage test activities and liaise with councils.”