18th September 2019

Test purchases show 20% failure rate

A test purchase operation in Warwickshire has highlighted retailers’ failure to check young customers’ ages, with one in five failing to ask for proof of age.

By JTS Staff
Journal of Trading Standards' in-house team
Retailers have a part to play in tackling knife crime by helping to prevent knives falling in to the hands of young people

A test purchasing operation carried out by Warwickshire Trading Standards has revealed that one in five retailers failed to ask for proof of age when selling knives to young people.

Trading standards officers visited 54 shops in Atherstone, Rugby, Nuneaton and Bedworth, Warwick, Leamington Spa and Stratford upon Avon. Apprentices aged 18 ad and 19 were able to buy steak knives, kitchen knives and Stanley knives without being challenged about their age.

Best practice is for businesses to routinely ask for age identification before selling any age restricted product to anyone who appears to be under the age of 25 (Challenge 25).

All retailers were provided with advice on preventing the sale of knives to children.

Officers then returned to the premises that had sold knives, with volunteers aged under 18. The under-aged volunteers were able to buy knives at three of the premises, a criminal offence. These shops were located in Nuneaton, Bedworth and Warwick.

Warwickshire County Councillor Andy Crump, Portfolio Holder for Community Safety said: “Retailers have a part to play in tackling knife crime by helping to prevent knives falling in to the hands of young people. I’m delighted that the majority of our retailers are taking their responsibilities seriously and asking for age identification.

“However, a 20% failure rate is too high and this is why our Trading Standards Service has been providing advice and guidance to retailers.”

Retailers are being advised to introduce Challenge 25 and train their staff to ask for proof of age, keep knives locked away and put up posters to dissuade youngsters from trying to purchase knives.

Trading Standards Services across England and Wales have been carrying out similar test purchase exercises, asking child volunteers to attempt to purchase knives from retailers. 2,231 test purchases were carried out and 344 sales made.

Retailers who sell knives to children could face prosecution – potentially facing up to 6 months imprisonment and a £5,000 fine.

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