A joint investigation by Barking & Dagenham and Redbridge Trading Standards has led to a successful prosecution against B&M Retail, with the discount retailer ordered to pay over £490,000 after pleading guilty to three offences of underage sales of knives. The company admitted to Barkingside Magistrates Court that staff had sold knives to teenagers as young as 14.
B&M, which has over 500 stores across the country, was first found to have broken the rules back in September 2017 when a male aged 15 and a female aged 14, were part of a planned test purchase at its Goodmayes store. They purchased a set of knives and sweets and were not asked about their age or any request made for proof of age identification. The transaction was observed by an undercover police officer.
Less than 48 hours later a similar incident took place at the company’s Vicarage Fields store in Barking, when a 16-year-old male went into the shop and purchased a three-piece knife set which was seized and Trading Standards Officers then entered the store. The seller was cautioned and interviewed.
Despite a number of warnings and assurances from B&M representatives that they would do everything in their power to prevent a repeat, a third incident took place at Vicarage Fields in January 2018. This time a 14-year-old male volunteer was deployed to conduct a test purchase of a knife and was witnessed by a plain-clothes police officer, who noticed the till operator was mainly talking to a person behind the volunteer and did not pay the minor attention or ask for identification as he purchased a packet of three knives. The knives were seized and Trading Standards Officers entered the store shortly afterwards.
The case was a cross-borough prosecution with Redbridge, led by Barking and Dagenham Council’s legal department. The prosecution demonstrates the advantages of cross borough co-operation to tackle problems which affect the wider community, something which both Barking and Dagenham and Redbridge have championed.
In the past three years, Barking & Dagenham Council has obtained Out-of-Court settlements against two major high street retailers following sales of age-restricted products – including knives and cigarette lighter refill canisters – and Poundstretcher Ltd received a £7,500 fine plus costs of £5,221.50, following a sale of a knife to a 15-year-old in in Dagenham.
Councillor Margaret Mullane, Cabinet Member for Enforcement and Community Safety said: “This is a major milestone for us as we continue the fight against knife crime in the capital. The magnitude of this fine sends out a strong warning that we will not tolerate anyone selling knives to people under the age of 18.
“It is the responsibility of all businesses in the borough, no matter how big they are, to work with and protect the local community. Our Trading Standards team will continue to carry out test purchases and we will take the strongest possible action against anyone not following the correct guidelines.”
Councillor Bob Littlewood, Cabinet Member for Crime, Safety and Community Cohesion at Redbridge Council, said: “This landmark prosecution exposes a shocking abuse of the law and sends a clear message that we will not tolerate rogue traders putting lives at risk.
“I want to praise the commitment of officers at both councils and the young volunteers who are essential to making these operations a success. Tackling crime is one of our priorities and we will continue to take tough action with the police and other boroughs to keep east London safe.”
B&M Retail was given 28 days to pay the fine of £480,000, plus costs of more than £12,000.