Following a recent change to legislation that will see criminals facing substantial jail terms if convicted of a second knife offence, the success of Croydon’s trading standards team in preventing the sale of blades to youngsters has been laid out in stark fashion.
A series of test-purchasing operations over the past three years has revealed some local businesses selling knives to trading standards’ young volunteer “shoppers”.
During 37 test purchases from stores across the borough, the youngsters went unchallenged on a number of occasions, leaving them able to buy a frightening range of knives – from intimidating meat cleavers to small, retractable hobby blades – all of which, in the wrong hands, would be capable of causing serious injury and taking a life.
The sales were in contravention of age-restricted goods regulations which state that certain items – including knives, alcohol and tobacco – can be sold only to adults aged 18 or older.
Most of the illegal sales were from stores selling all items for a fixed price. Such stores have often been found to have poor staff-training regimes and lax sale-control systems.
The change to the law, introduced in July, means that an adult convicted for a second time of an offence involving a knife, could be imprisoned for at least six months, while 16- to 18-year-olds will get at least four months’ detention or a training order.
It is thought that, nationally, the move will see an additional 1,300 people a year jailed for possession of a knife, with a maximum sentence of up to four years.
The trading standards team, in an effort to raise awareness of the laws on age-restricted products, supports local businesses by operating, free of charge, a nationally recognised training programme.
The Do You Pass scheme provides training and support for small businesses and their staff to help them to protect themselves and their communities by preventing the sale of age-restricted products to young people.
The regularly staged courses are often over-subscribed, indicating that, for the most part, local businesses are keen to be aware of, and abide by, statutory regulations.
Councillor Mark Watson, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice
“Access to knives can expose children and young people to increased risks, including gang-related culture and potential serious crime or injury, either committing antisocial crime or becoming a victim of crime themselves.
“The council is sending out a strong message that it will not tolerate the sale of knives to under-18s, and will not hesitate to take formal action against any retailer caught selling knives to an under-age person.
“Experience shows that stores at which such knife sales have taken place, generally have poor management and poor training of staff.
“Our Do You Pass scheme has a proven track record of success that has shown that staff who have the appropriate knowledge with regard the sale of age-restricted goods are far less likely to make an illegal sale.
“That’s good for the business as it avoids costly legal expenses, fines and reputational damage, and it’s good for the community as it means fewer knives are getting into the wrong hands.”