Tougher measures for retailers selling knives to children come into force in England and Wales this week (1 April 2023).
Merseyside Police and partners welcome the introduction of new sentencing guidelines relating to the sale of knives and related items to under-18s.
Published by the Sentencing Council, the two new guidelines – one for organisations and one for individuals – apply to offenders who fail to ensure that adequate safeguards are in place to prevent the sale of a knife, knife blade, razor blade, axe, or other article which has a blade or which is sharply pointed to under 18s either in store or online.
For the first time, Magistrates’ Courts will have specific sentencing guidelines for this offence, which is prosecuted by Trading Standards.
The introduction of the new guidelines will remove any ambiguity and ensure a more consistent approach to how these offences are dealt with across the country.
Large organisations with an annual turnover of £50 million and over could be fined up to £1 million, while individuals operating small shops could potentially face a community order, or a fine up to 700 per cent of relevant weekly income.
The courts will determine the level of culpability between high and low.
Inspector Laura Leach, Deputy Lead for Serious Violence and Knife Crime, said: “Reducing and preventing knife crime continues to be a priority all year round for Merseyside Police. We welcome these new measures which put additional safeguards in place to prevent the sale of knives to under-18s.
“In light of the new guidelines, we would encourage all retailers to understand the scope of the new legislation and regularly carry out routine checks to ensure that their underage sales policies and procedures are being followed.
“Operation Target is our dedicated operation to tackle serious violence and knife crime in Merseyside. Alongside open land searches, warrants and stop searches, we work with retailers throughout the year to ensure they are fulfilling their obligations when approached by a young person attempting to buy a knife. This includes conducting underage test purchases and delivering training to shop workers.
“Carrying a knife is dangerous and can lead to fatal consequences – we are committed to doing everything we can to find the people who carry, store and use weapons in Merseyside. These new guidelines support our ongoing work to prevent crime and harm and help make Merseyside a safer place to live, work and visit.”
Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Emily Spurrell said: “Knife crime has no place in Merseyside and we all have a responsibility to prevent any potential weapons getting onto our streets. A recent survey I carried out in partnership with Merseyside Police showed that knife crime remains a top priority for people living in our communities and those who continue to sell knives to people under the age of 18 are contributing to the issue.
“Work to tackle knife crime goes on all year round, including a huge amount of youth diversion activities focused on preventing young people from picking them up in the first place. I hope the introduction of these new sentencing guidelines will act a warning that anyone caught selling a bladed article to someone under the age of 18 will face stronger punishments, while also helping to support the work of Merseyside Police in making our region a safer place for us all to be.”
Geraldine O’Driscoll, Temporary Director for the Merseyside Violence Reduction Partnership said: “Restricting the access to knives when allied to a proper programme of education around serious violence could reduce the number of lives ruined or even lost to knife crime.
“Everyone within our society from parents to teachers, businesses, decision makers and young people themselves has a role to play in creating safer communities where we all can thrive. That includes retailers who have a duty to make sure the goods that they sell cause no harm. After all, do they want to trade within an environment where the spectre of serious violence is present? Or do business in an area renowned where residents and visitors feel safe.”
Anyone with information can DM @MerPolCC on Twitter or contact Crimestoppers UK anonymously on 0800 555 111.