Person with knife (posed by model)

Retailers urged to do more to stop the sale of knives to under 18s

New test purchasing data published today shows that children have been able to buy knives from small independent stores and some of the biggest names on the high street, despite the major retailers pledging** to stop the sale of knives to children.

Of 2231 tests, carried out by Trading Standards in England and Wales between 1 April 2018 and 31 March 2019, retailers failed to prevent the sale of a knife to a child on 344 separate occasions (15%). Poundland, Home Bargains, Asda and Tesco sold knives to children at least 15 times each during the tests. Some retailers have taken action since the tests began to introduce new steps to help prevent the sale of knives to children.

Separately, 100 online test purchases were carried out; children were sold a knife on 41 occasions.

Person with knife (posed by model)

Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, said:

“Restricting the sale of knives to children is clearly a difficult issue for retailers, especially those with large numbers of outlets, staff and delivery partners, and I am aware that many retailers are working incredibly hard to train staff and introduce robust procedures to stem the flow of knives to children.

“But let’s be clear – it’s illegal to sell a knife to a child. Our tests show that it’s still too easy for a child to buy a knife in store or online. We know that young people are being cautioned and convicted for knife crime offences, and as such I urge all retailers to do more. Do you need to sell knives? If you do, can you remove them from shelves and have them available either from a locked cabinet or via a specific till for customers, as already happens with cigarettes – where this is a legal requirement? Are your procedures and those of your delivery partners robust? Can you do more mystery shopping of your own to test how well your own processes are applied?

“The Trading Standards community will continue to play our part by promoting best practice, providing advice to businesses, monitoring retailers’ activity and taking proportionate enforcement action. We need to make sure Trading Standards Services have enough funds to do this important work.”

National Trading Standards is publishing results from the test purchases, which were carried out by young people aged under 18, to encourage best practice and highlight the issue. National Trading Standards recognises it is very complex for businesses with multiple outlets to prevent sales of knives to under 18s and the law in this area is clear that if a retailer has adopted the correct procedures and ensured they are implemented, there is no offence.

Minister for Policing, Crime and Fire Kit Malthouse said:

“I am deeply concerned to see some retailers are breaking the law and I expect them to take urgent action to stop young people from getting hold of knives in the first place.

“Our Offensive Weapons Act will also help stop knives and weapons making their way onto our streets and being used to carry out appalling attacks.”

Local authorities have routinely undertaken test purchasing of knives. For the last two years the Home Office has provided additional funds to National Trading Standards to supplement this work. This is a pilot scheme and is just one part of a multi-faceted approach to reducing knife crime. The work of this programme is ongoing and will include further test purchasing. A range of enforcement powers are available including cautions, warnings and prosecutions.

In 2018 B&M was ordered to pay £480,000 in fines and £12,428 in costs after selling knives to children. Croydon Trading Standards has recently successfully prosecuted companies for selling knives online as part of this work.

  • In July 2019 Tool Supplies UK Limited of Heswell, Wirral, and Inifer Potter and Son Ltd of Hockley in Essex were fined £8,000 and each was ordered to pay costs of more than £2,000
  • SD International Trading Limited was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay over £2,250 in costs after pleading guilty at Croydon Magistrates’ Court on 25 June 2019 to selling a knife online to a child

·       Consider if you need to sell knives at all.

·       If you do need to sell knives, store them securely in locked cabinets behind a specific counter.

·       Ensure all staff are made aware that knives are age-restricted products and receive regular training and refreshers on an ongoing basis.

·       Operate age restricted policies: no ID, no sale.

·       Sign up to and adhere to the voluntary Code to restrict sales of knives to children

·       Carry out mystery shopping to ensure procedures are being followed.

·       For more information go to: