It is illegal to sell a knife to anyone under 18 in England and Wales and the Government is tackling the illegal sale to under-18s on a number of fronts. Firstly, as part of the Serious Violence Strategy, we are enabling Trading Standards to take forward prosecutions where retailers fail test purchase operations involving sales to under-18s through a specific prosecution fund. In the North West of England, Liverpool and Preston are two local authorities receiving this funding. In 2018/19, 1019 face to face test purchases had been attempted by the local authorities funded across England and Wales, with 121 sellers (around 13 per cent) failing the test and selling to a person under 18. In the same period, 128 online test purchases had been attempted, with 32% (41) failing and selling to a person under 18.
The Government also continues to encourage police forces to undertake a series of co-ordinated national weeks of action to tackle knife crime under Operation Sceptre. The operation includes targeted stop and searches, weapon sweeps of hotspot areas, test purchases of knives from retailers, and educational events. The latest phase of the operation took place from 11-18 March, and overall 689 test purchase operations were carried out in retail premises. Of these, there were 559 passes. 130 (around 19%) resulted in the retail outlet failing the test purchase.
To go further in preventing the sale of knives to under-18s, the Offensive Weapons Act 2019 includes a provision that will stop knives from being sent to residential addresses after they are bought online, unless the seller has arrangements in place with the delivery company to ensure that the product would not be delivered into the hands of a person under 18.
The Government has also agreed a set of commitments with major retailers to prevent the underage sales of knives more generally in their stores and online. The agreement also covers staff training and displays and packaging. Tesco, eBay UK, Lidl UK, Amazon UK, Wilko, Argos, Asda, Poundland, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, John Lewis and Waitrose have all signed up to the principles. They have since been joined by Boots, the Co-op, B&Q, Aldi, TKMaxx and Debenhams. We are working with retailers to strengthen the agreement in relation to displays and that work is continuing. Following on from this, Asda has stopped selling single knives in its stores from the end of April, a move supported by the Government.