HOME OFFICE News
Release (143/2008) issued by The Government News Network on 11
A crackdown on the
illegal sale of knives to under-18s was called for today by Home
Office Minister Vernon Coaker.
In a letter to Chief Executives of Local Authorities and Chief
Police Officers, he emphasised concerns about young people's
access to knives and asked for increased activity to tackle the problem.
Knife retailers in the ten police force areas in England and
Wales, that are the focus of the Government's Tackling Knives
Action Programme, will face 'mystery shopper' visits by
underage children, under the supervision of police and Trading
Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker said:
"We are committed to tackling knife crime and getting knives
off our streets. We have introduced tough laws including
increasing the minimum age at which someone can be sold a knife
from 16 to 18 and penalties for shopkeepers who do beak the law.
"Knife crime is a complex issue which we all need to work
together to solve. Enforcement action is one part of the solution
and that is why I am today calling on our partners in the police
and Trading Standards to get tough with anyone illegally selling
knives to under-18s. I want to see more test purchasing operations
like those being undertaken in Birmingham to catch any
Alf Hitchcock, ACPO lead on knife crime and Deputy Assistant
Commissioner Metropolitan Police said:
"For some time, police forces have been working closely with
Trading Standards to address the illegal sale of knives to young people.
"Police forces are determined to make inroads into stamping
out knife crime and getting weapons off our streets - but this
cannot be down to police alone - retailers must take
responsibility for their actions too.
"Operations such as this are considered good practice in
tackling unscrupulous and irresponsible shop keepers who are
willing to sell knives to young people with the full knowledge
that these may then go on to be used as weapons."
Councillor Geoffrey Theobald OBE, Chairman of council trading
standards organisation LACORS said:
"Council Trading Standards teams are already taking a tough
stance on shops selling knives to children and carry out regular
checks to make sure retailers aren't breaking the law. Recent
test-purchasing operations across the country show that the
majority of retailers are responsible and ask for ID whenever they
suspect somebody may be under age. Unfortunately there are clearly
still a minority who are prepared to profit by selling knives to children.
"The legal age for buying a knife was raised from 16 to 18
last year and it's important that retailers understand the
implications of breaking the law. Councils aren't trying to
hoodwink retailers, and will only use volunteers who look under
18. There is simply no excuse for selling knives to children, and
retailers must accept their share of responsibility if we are to
keep our streets, and our young people, safe and free of knives."
In the last year alone, a range of tough penalties have been
rolled out to get across the message that carrying a knife is
unacceptable, including doubling the maximum sentence for carrying
a knife from two to four years, giving teachers the power to
search pupils for weapons in schools and increasing the use of
stop and search.
Anyone over the age of 16 caught in possession of a knife can now
expect to be prosecuted on the first offence. Those under 16 can
still expect to receive at least a caution coupled with a knife
education scheme to help them understand the potentially
devastating consequences of carrying knives.
Alongside this, the recent launch of a £3 million three year
advertising campaign, designed by young people for young people,
vividly gets across the message that carrying a knife can wreck lives.
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. Selling knives to under-18s carries a maximum sentence of six
months imprisonment and/or a fine of £5,000.
2. The offence centres on sale so the retailer commits an offence
if he sells to an under-18 year old. Anyone knowingly selling to
an under-18 through internet sites, including e-bay would be
committing an offence.
3. In June 2008, the Home Secretary outlined plans to focus a
programme of action on knife crime hotspots and announced an
initial investment of £2 million.
4. The ten areas taking part in the Tackling Knives Action
Programme account for more than 70 percent of serious violence
involving a knife. They are London, Essex, Lancashire, West
Yorkshire, Merseyside, the West Midlands, Greater Manchester,
Nottinghamshire, South Wales and Thames Valley.
5. On 13 July 2008 the Home Secretary announced that the ACPO
lead on knife crime, DAC Alf Hitchcock (Metropolitan Police
Service) would head up the new Tackling Knives Action Programme.
6. The Programme, which will run until March 2009, is delivering
tough enforcement combined with education, prevention work and
information campaigns designed to keep youngsters on the right track.