London Trading Standards (LTS), the Deputy Mayor of London and the Metropolitan Police have joined forces to launch the new Responsible Retailer Agreement (RRA) on knife sales.
The RRA, which is accompanied by best practice guidance for retailers, comes as new figures show that 160 knives were sold to volunteers as young as 13 last year in trading standards test purchase operations across the capital, with one in nine stores, and two in five online retailers, making an underage sale.
Metropolitan Police figures show that the number of knife crime offences recorded in London reached almost 15,000 in 2018/2019, an increase of more than 5,000 since 2015/2016.
All London retailers selling knives will be invited to sign up to the new scheme, with an emphasis on attracting smaller independent businesses to help them comply with the law.
The RRA urges businesses and staff to:
- understand the basic requirements for the safe storage of knives;
- follow the ASSESS-CHALLENGE-CHECK process for selling age-restricted goods;
- know when and how to contact police with suspicions of knife crime or where staff feel threatened by customers.
Every business in London will soon be visited by a trading standards officer and a police officer to encourage them to sign up to the agreement.
Chief Executive at the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, Leon Livermore, said: “These figures show how important test purchases of knife sales by trading standards officers are. We fully support this new retailer agreement. It is an important weapon in keeping UK consumers safe. It’s key that trading standards services are funded enough to do this work.”
Sophie Linden, Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, said: “Knives have no place on the streets of London. It’s simply unacceptable that teenagers as young as 13 are able to buy knives – this is why it is vital that retailers comply with the law and stop knives from getting into the hands of young Londoners.
“This new support for smaller shops launched today will help ensure that all retailers are following best practice by helping to train staff on the storage and sale of knives and encouraging them to speak to the police if they have any concerns.”
London Councils’ Executive Member for Crime & Public Protection Cllr Jas Athwal, said: “Knife crime and youth violence represent a serious challenge to London. The Responsible Retailers Agreement is an important step forward. The government must now make sure London boroughs’ trading standards teams have the resources we need to carry out checks on retailers and help enforce the law.”
LTS Operations Director Stephen Knight said: “London Borough trading standards teams have been cut to the bone in the past decade and are extremely thinly spread dealing with criminal activity by London’s 500,000 businesses. The Act will require significant new funding for trading standards if its measures are to be meaningfully enforced when it becomes law in the coming months.”
LTS, which represents 33 local authorities in London, has warned that without new government funding, trading standards services do not have the capacity to enforce the new Offensive Weapons Act 2019 which deals with underage sales of corrosives and the banning the delivery of online purchased knives and corrosives to under 18s.