29th August 2019

Underage knife sales data revealed

New figures published today show that high street and online retailers are continuing to sell knives to children.


By JTS Staff
Journal of Trading Standards' in-house team
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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

National Trading Standards has published new test purchasing data which shows that children have been able to buy knives from some of the biggest names on the high street, including major supermarkets, as well as small independent stores. The findings come despite several major retailers pledging to stop the sale of knives to children.

In 2,231 tests carried out by trading standards in England and Wales between April 1, 2018 and March 31, 2019, retailers failed to prevent the sale of a knife to a child on 344 separate occasions (15%).

Poundland, Home Bargains, Asda and Tesco sold knives to children at least 15 times each during the tests. Some retailers have taken action since the tests began to introduce new steps to help prevent the sale of knives to children.

Separately, 100 online test purchases were carried out, during which children were sold a knife on 41 occasions.

Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, said: “Restricting the sale of knives to children is clearly a difficult issue for retailers, especially those with large numbers of outlets, staff and delivery partners, and I am aware that many retailers are working incredibly hard to train staff and introduce robust procedures to stem the flow of knives to children.

“But 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.”

Minister for Policing, Crime and Fire Kit Malthouse said: “I am deeply concerned to see some retailers are breaking the law and I expect them to take urgent action to stop young people from getting hold of knives in the first place.”