Retailers must do more on knife sales

National Trading Standards is calling on retailers to do more to prevent knife crime after interim findings from a new programme of test purchasing revealed many were selling knives without undertaking required age verifications.

The programme, which began in October and is ongoing, revealed a 12% failure rate among retail premises visited, which grew to 50% among online retailers. The figures represent the programme’s findings up to the end of January.

The prospect of potential enforcement action against retailers found to be in breach of the law means National Trading Standards can neither name retailers who failed the checks or comment on potential enforcement measures. However, retailers who failed the checks include a number of well-known high street and online brands.

The programme has also found that more than 70% of retailers visited do not have theft prevention measures in place in relation to knives.

Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, said:

“As we have tragically seen in recent weeks and months, knife crime is one of the most serious issues facing our country, and we have sadly witnessed its fatal consequences.

“Our programme with the Home Office has only been running a few months but already evidence has shown that knives appear to be being sold illegally to young people. We call on retailers to play their part in combatting this scourge on society by taking immediate action.”

A Home Office Spokesperson said:

“This Government is determined to prevent access to offensive weapons.

“It is already illegal to sell knives to under 18s and it is vital that retailers continue to play their part. We have and continue to work with high street retailers to put in place a set of voluntary commitments to prevent the underage sales of knives in their stores and online.

“As part of the Serious Violence Strategy we are supporting Trading Standards through a new Prosecution Fund to help them to take rogue retailers who sell knives to under 18s through the courts. In addition our proposed Offensive Weapons Bill will also introduce legislation that will make it harder than ever for young people to purchase knives.”

The work of the National Trading Standards knife crime programme is funded by the Home Office. The work of this programme is ongoing and will include further test purchasing. Where appropriate there is also the scope for enforcement action against retailers who are found to be in breach of the law.

Notes to Editors

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Notes to editors

About National Trading Standards

  • National Trading Standards provides leadership influence, support and resources to help combat consumer and business detriment locally, regionally and nationally
  • The National Trading Standards Board is a group of senior and experienced local government heads of trading standards, representing all trading standards services across England and Wales. The Board has been set up by the Government as part of changes to the consumer protection landscape and an enhanced role for trading standards.
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