Warning issued to retailers after knives bought by 16-year-old

This story was published 13 March 2019

A warning has been issued to retailers after six out of ten sold knives to a 16-year-old in test purchases by North Yorkshire Trading Standards.

A selection of knives bought in the test

Legally, people must be over 18 to buy a knife, but on six occasions in North Yorkshire a 16-year-old volunteer was able to buy a knife from branches of major retailers. The test purchases by the County Council’s Trading Standards service were in support of North Yorkshire Police’s Knife Crime Awareness Week activity. North Yorkshire Police are taking part in a co-ordinated week of action across the country.

Volunteer children who help Trading Standards with test purchases follow strict rules. They tell the truth at all times and provide identification showing their true age, if asked.

County Councillor Andrew Lee, Executive Member for Trading Standards, said: “It is a crime to sell age-restricted products, such as knives, to minors, so all retailers must ensure that their staff members have the training and confidence to refuse illegal sales to minors.

“While reports of underage knife sales have not been an issue in North Yorkshire, the results of these test purchases do raise concerns, particularly against the backdrop of instances of knife crime elsewhere in the country. Retailers have an important role to play in ensuring our young people cannot buy potentially dangerous products, so we want to see retailers complying with their legal and social obligations.”

Detective Superintendent Steve Thomas, who is the operational lead for knife crime in North Yorkshire Police, said: “It is an offence to sell a knife, knife blade, razor, axe or other article which has a blade or is sharply pointed to anyone under 18.

“All it takes is for one knife to fall in the wrong hands to have a devastating impact on many lives – not just the victim but their friends, family, community and the perpetrator as well.

“Whilst this week’s results show that more work is needed to ensure that all shops are following the law over knife sales, I would like to say well done to those stores who were prepared to challenge a youngster trying to buy knives. Their intervention could save a life.

“We will continue to partner up with Trading Standards in the future to check how well stores are meeting their legal responsibilities around selling knives to children.”

The shops involved were not subject to any prior complaint, so no prosecutions will be made. However, the retailers have received verbal and written advice and further test purchases will be carried out to check that improvements have been implemented.

Trading Standards is inviting all retailers to work with them to achieve a Responsible Retailer award, which recognises businesses that follow underage sales legislation. Officers will work with participating outlets to introduce an effective age verification policy and to help to train staff. For more information on the Responsible Retailer scheme, call Trading Standards officer David Miller on 01609 534810.

Anyone with information about knives being sold illegally, or about someone carrying a knife in their community, can contact police on 101 or pass information to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.