Underage knife sales to be tackled by retailer agreement

Retailers in the capital have been urged to take extra measures to prevent underage knife sales under a new agreement to help cut soaring violent offence rates.

Shop staff should “assess, challenge, check” the age of buyers online and in stores before selling them knives under the Responsible Retailer Agreement (RRA) developed by London Trading Standards (LTS), the Metropolitan Police and the Mayor’s Office.

It is illegal to sell a knife to anyone under 18 years old.

LTS said the agreement, which is accompanied by a good practice guide and a set of online retailer training animations, aimed to encourage stores to train all staff to carry out the extra checks in order to ensure they were complying with the law.

Every business in London will be visited by a trading standards officer and a police officer to encourage them to sign up to the agreement.

The move comes after 160 knives were sold to volunteers as young as 13 last year in Trading Standards test purchase operations, with one in nine stores making an underage sale as well as two in five online retailers.

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.

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.

A man holding a knife behind his back
Figures show knife crime offences recorded in London reached almost 15,000 in 2018/2019 (Katie Collins/PA)

“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. Knife crime destroys communities and the only way we are going to rid our streets of these dangerous weapons is by working together to stop them getting into the hands of young people.”

London Councils’ executive member for crime and public protection 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.”

Commander Mark McEwan of the Metropolitan Police said: “Violent crime is our number one priority and this is a great example of the MPS collaborating with our partners to help address it.

“We urge businesses across London to sign up and play their part in preventing violent crime.”

Chartered Trading Standards Institute chief executive 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.”

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