Retailers are urged to take more action in order to stop knives being sold to under 18s. Tests carried out by Trading Standards in England and Wales between 1st April 2018 and 31st March 2019 found that 344 out of 2231 retailers failed to prevent the sale of a knife to a child. Amongst the retailers, the likes of Poundland, Home Bargains, Asda and Tesco had sold knives to children at least 15 times. This aside, 100 online test purchases were also carried out. Children were sold knives on 41 occasions.
Up until March this year, 22,041 people were cautioned, reprimanded, or convicted for carrying a knife in England and Wales. Most of these people were adults. However, one in five (4,451) were under the age of 18. This is unsurprising given how readily available knives are to children. It seems that on a lot of occasions, they can simply purchase them amongst retailers, both in store and online, without issue.
Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards acknowledges that the restriction of knife sales to children is a difficult issue for retailers, especially those with large numbers of outlets, staff and delivery partners. However, he also states: "Let’s be clear - it’s illegal to sell a knife to a child. Our tests show that it’s still too easy for a child to buy a knife in store or online. We know that young people are being cautioned and convicted for knife crime offences, and as such I urge all retailers to do more. Do you need to sell knives? If you do, can you remove them from shelves and have them available either from a locked cabinet or via a specific till for customers, as already happens with cigarettes – where this is a legal requirement? Are your procedures and those of your delivery partners robust? Can you do more mystery shopping of your own to test how well your own processes are applied? The Trading Standards community will continue to play our part by promoting best practice, providing advice to businesses, monitoring retailers’ activity and taking proportionate enforcement action. We need to make sure Trading Standards Services have enough funds to do this important work."
The reason why National Trading Standards have published results from test purchases is because they want to highlight the issue and encourage best practice. The law in this area is clear; if a retailer has adopted the correct procedures and ensured that they are implemented, then no offence will arise. For the past two years, the Home Office has provided additional funds to National Trading Standards in order to supplement the test purchasing of knives. This is a pilot scheme and is just one part of a multi-faceted approach to reducing knife crime. The programme is ongoing and will include further test purchasing.
A range of enforcement powers are available including cautions, warnings, and prosecutions. In 2018, B&M was ordered to pay £480,000 in fines and £12,428 in costs after selling knives to children. Additionally, SD International Trading Limited was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay over £2,250 in costs after pleading guilty at Croydon Magistrates’ Court on 25 June 2019 to selling a knife online to a child.
If you have a company that faces proceedings as a result of a Trading Standards investigation then the regulatory team at Stephensons are able to help you. The team have extensive experience in representing and defending clients at interviews under caution, as well as hearings brought before the court. For more information, please call our regulatory team on 01616 966 229.