Croydon Council brought a prosecution against Astoria International Ltd after one of its trading standards officers saw an employee at the company’s Gift Bank shop in New Addington sell craft knives in September 2018 to a 14-year-old girl.
On March 21, store employee Raymond Morris, who sold the knives, was given a four-month prison sentence suspended for 12 months, ordered to pay £315 in costs and victim surcharge, do 100 hours’ unpaid community work and carry out 19 sessions with Think First, a Home Office-accredited rehabilitation programme for offenders.
Morris admitted at an earlier hearing the offence of selling a knife product to someone under 18.
At Croydon Magistrates’ Court on March 26, Astoria International company director Ram Kumar Vija, who also admitted the same offence at an earlier hearing, was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £4,210.80 in costs plus £300 in victim surcharge.
The court heard at a previous hearing that the teenager was a volunteer carrying out underage test purchases for the council as part of regular trading standards checks to ensure businesses are obeying the law on knife sales. Under the Criminal Justice Act 1988 as amended by the Offensive Weapons Act 1996, it is illegal to sell a knife, knife blade, razor blade or axe to anyone under 18.
The council’s trading standards and Metropolitan Police officers worked together on September’s test purchase after police had given Gift Bank a previous verbal warning in April 2018 for selling a two-piece cutter set to two 13-year-olds in school uniform at the store in Central Parade.
Croydon’s trading standards team runs regular free training sessions called Do You Pass that keep businesses up-to-date on the law, best practice and to prevent underage sales of age-restricted products. At a previous hearing the court was told that, despite council offers to take up this training and reminders that test purchases would be carried out, the company did not get in touch for the training.
Councillor Hamida Ali, Croydon Council’s cabinet member for safer Croydon and communities, said: “The council gave this company every opportunity to get free training to avoid illegally selling knives to children, and their failure to do this has proved a costly mistake for Mr Vijay and his company.
“This case underlines the great work that the council’s trading standards team does as part of the borough’s collective fight alongside communities against knife crime, and I hope other businesses will sign up for future training courses so they play their part in keeping our young people safe – and do not fall foul of the law on age-restricted products.”