Editors notes – London retailer agreement launched to crackdown on underage knife sales

1. London Trading Standards (LTS) represents the 33 local authority Trading Standards services in the London Region. LTS shares information and awareness campaigns across the capital to protect consumers and safeguard legitimate enterprise.

2. LTS members advise on and enforce laws that govern the way we buy, sell, rent and hire goods and services. LTS carry out inspections and monitor or investigate complaints. LTS endeavours to work with businesses to help achieve compliance but ultimately, can prosecute those who break the law. Trading standards have the power to inspect premises involved in the distribution of used electrical  goods. They may suspend and seize goods as appropriate as well as conduct investigations into criminal offences arising from unsafe goods

3. Consumers may report London related information on trading standards issues to London Trading Standards, via our online reporting tool. The information will be passed on to the relevant authority or organisation. Please note it is a confidential no-reply service. If you need any further advice or guidance please contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06.

4. Signatories to the Responsible Retailer Agreement will be asked to comply with requirements on the training of staff and the use of good practice when selling or storing knives or other bladed items. A Good Practice Guide and display signage will be produced in conjunction with the RRA and training sessions will be offered to help both staff and managers at member businesses.

5. The agreement’s on-line training animations, funded by the National Business Crime Centre (NBCC), the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) and the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), will be made freely available on the NBCC website (www.nbcc.police.uk/KnifeGuidance) and other platforms for any business to use.

6. In the coming months, every business should receive a joint visit from a trading standards officer and a police officer to encourage them to sign-up to the agreement and to use the animations in their staff training.

7. New figures for London borough enforcement of underage knife sales

  • Figures for trading standards enforcement operations across London show 160 knives were sold to teenage volunteers as young as 13 years old in the past year (2018-19).
  • 1,051 attempted knife purchases were made in London stores by underage volunteers during the year, with 100 attempts made to UK-based online retailers.
  • 119 knives were sold from stores and 41 sold online. (NB The in-store figures include some “challenge 25” test purchases carried out by subjects over 18 but under 25 to see whether they are challenged for ID)
  • Five boroughs that received targeted one-off government funding for test purchases (Croydon, Tower Hamlets, Southwark, Haringey & Newham) were responsible for 603 of the 1,051 attempted purchases.
  • The other 28 boroughs averaged 16 test purchases each during the year, demonstrating the impact that funding can have on enforcement activity.
  • Six further boroughs (Waltham Forest, Lewisham, Lambeth, Hackney, Enfield and Redbridge) are receiving one-off government funding for knife test purchases this financial year. However, no funding has been announced for further in-store test purchases beyond March next year.
  • The government funded online test purchased programme was run by Croydon Council and completed in March 2019. 100 attempts were made by a 13-year-old volunteer to purchase knives from UK-based online retailers using pre-paid debit cards and 41 knives were delivered.
  • Several successful prosecutions have already been made by Croydon Council as a result of this operation and further prosecutions are ongoing.
  • The government has so far not announced any further funding for online knife sale enforcement in 2019-20 or beyond.

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