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Knife crime crisis: Councils warn children as young as 14 are able to buy knives | UK News

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Retailers across the UK are breaking the law on underage knife sales, with some allowing children as young as 14 to buy blades, councils have warned.

With funding to find and prosecute rogue stores running dry, the Local Government Association (LGA) has said that as many as 60% of shops in some areas are selling knives illegally.

Those figures came from North Yorkshire, where a series of test purchases by the county council saw a 16-year-old volunteer able to buy a knife from branches of major retailers on six out of 10 occasions.

The government has announced  new acid and knife laws to tackle violent crime
Image:
New acid and knife laws to tackle violent crime come into force later this year

In similar test operations elsewhere, three out of 10 retailers in Southend sold a knife to an underage purchaser, while three shops in Stoke-on-Trent were investigated after selling knives to a 15-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl.

The children were able to buy a Stanley knife and two utility knives without being asked for identification, resulting in two of the retailers receiving written warnings, with the other still under investigation.

Away from the high street, research has also found that some 41% of UK-based online knife retailers have made illegal sales to under-18s.

Simon Blackburn, chairman of the safer and stronger communities board at the LGA, said the “shocking” findings were contributing to the “tragic epidemic” of knife crime.

They come a month after new police figures showed that 40,829 offences involving knives or sharp objects had been recorded in England and Wales in 2018 – the most since comparable data started in 2010/11.

Mr Blackburn said: “The retail supply of knives and acids needs to be managed robustly across all sales points, and retailers must ask for proof of age if they suspect the buyer is under 25.

“The prosecutions fund announced in the serious violence strategy has helped some councils prosecute retailers for blatant breaches of knife sale laws.

“However, given the knife crime epidemic, the significant cuts to trading standards budgets and the extra enforcement activity that will be needed when the offensive weapons bill becomes law, this fund needs urgent further investment and extending to many more councils to tackle illegal knife sales and protect people from harm.”



This knife was recovered on a stop and search operation in London



Deadly knife found in stop-and-search operation

The LGA has also warned that the dedicated prosecutions fund at the home office, set up as part of the serious violence strategy, would not be enough to help councils enforce breaches of knife sales in the longer term.

Eleven councils will share £1m, split equally over two years, to carry out more purchasing tests to identify retailers guilty of selling knives to people underage.

But the LGA believes most of the funding will have to be used for prosecutions, leaving limited funds for further tests and any extra online enforcement.

There are also concerns over whether trading standards teams at councils have the necessary resources to enforce a new offensive weapons bill, which will target acid and knife sales when it becomes law later this year.

It will become a criminal offence for knives and dangerous corrosives sold online to be delivered to under-18s at a residential address, and for the latter to be sold to anyone under 18.

Councils will get new responsibilities for undertaking underage test purchase operations at the point of delivery for online knife sales, and for enforcing restrictions on sales of acids and other corrosives.

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