Responsible Retailer Agreement relaunches after dozens of knives are sold to underage purchasers in London

An initiative to stamp out the sale of knives to underage purchasers has been relaunched after dozens of retailers across London failed to check if buyers were of legal age.

Undercover operations were carried out in May and August to assess whether someone under the age of 25 could buy a knife without being questioned.

More than half of the test purchases were successful – 55% – with 104 sales resulting from 190 attempts.

Senior Trading Standards officer, Doug Love, said: “The young Special Constables’ test purchasing certainly shows how poorly Challenge 25 is used in parts of London. As a result we felt we needed to relaunch the Responsible Retailer Agreement (RRA) to raise awareness of the importance of not selling to anyone who is under age.”

The RRA is run by London Trading Standards and is supported by The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) and the Metropolitan Police Service.

It was initially launched in 2019, urging the following:

  • To follow the ASSESS-CHALLENGE-CHECK process for selling age-restricted goods
  • To know when and how to contact police with suspicions of knife crime or where staff feel threatened by customers
  • To understand the basic requirements for the safe storage of knives

Sophie Linden, Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, said: “Knives have no place on the streets of London. As part of the Mayor’s approach to being tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime, we have worked with London Trading Standards and the Metropolitan Police to crack down on illegal knife sales to teenagers.

“Knife retailers have a legal and moral responsibility to help us ensure that potentially lethal weapons don’t end up in the wrong hands, and I welcome the Responsible Retailer Agreement which will ensure retailers are able to challenge an illegal sale and provide advice on safe storage and sale of knives.

“From City Hall, the Mayor is providing record funding to ensure there are 1,300 more Met police officers on our streets to suppress violence in local areas, and set up the Violence Reduction Unit to address the deep-seated causes of violence, such as social alienation and lack of opportunity.”

The terrorist attack in Streatham in February 2020 was enabled when the attacker, Sudesh Amman, was able to steal and use a knife that was on open display in a discount store.

Detective Chief Superintendent Lee Hill, Head of the Metropolitan Police Violent Crime Taskforce said:  “London Trading Standards have been valuable partners in encouraging retailers to sell and store knives responsibly. Our partnership, with help from the Mayor and the Home Office, has produced training animations and other materials that should greatly promote this aim. 

“We have also been able to offer young Special Constables to help with knives test purchasing across London, allowing easier identification of businesses not selling responsibly.

“Knife crime would not disappear if all shops sold and stored knives responsibly, but young and agitated people intent on using knives as a weapon would be denied immediate access to them and this can only be a positive step”.

Trading Standards officers are responsible for enforcing the law relating to the sale of knives to people under 18. The aim is to standardise training across all retail sectors by raising awareness, improving knowledge and understanding of how good product placement and additional security measures can prevent theft and illegal sales of knives.

Each module in the training comprises of a short animation and knowledge check, which also includes training on the Offensive Weapons Act essential for delivery drivers to enable them to ASSESS, CHALLENGE and CHECK as well.

STSO, Doug Love, added: “This commitment not only encourages High Street retailers to store and sell responsibly, but also to protect their communities.

“With the training and advice freely available to retailers, there should be many fewer sales of knives to underage buyers and no instances of thefts of knives from open display, with potentially fatal results..”

So far nearly 300 independent knives sellers have signed up across London.

The good practice guide for knife retailers offers training and best practice which can be found here – Knife Retailer Toolkit (nbcc.police.uk).

LTS is highlighting the online consumer crime reporting tool – a confidential, no reply service to raise concerns over inappropriate practices relating to all schemes. Report consumer crime – London Trading Standards

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