15 August 2008
Home Office minister Vernon Coaker has called on councils to crack down on retailers who illegally sell knives to under-18s.
But local government's regulatory services body, Lacors, said trading standards teams were already taking a tough stance and only a minority of shops still sold knives to children.
Lacors chair Geoffrey Theobald said: '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.'
Police forces and trading standards teams use underage volunteers to check if shops seek proof of age before selling knives. Coaker wants more of these test operations.
Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner Alf Hitchcock, who is spokesman on knife crime for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said police forces were determined to stamp out knife crime.
'Operations such as this are considered good practice in tackling unscrupulous and irresponsible shopkeepers who are willing to sell knives to young people with the full knowledge that these may then go on to be used as weapons.'
Retailers face a maximum sentence of six months' imprisonment or a £5,000 fine if they sell a knife illegally. In the past two months, trading standards teams from Blackpool to Islington have uncovered retailers selling knives to children as young as 14, Lacors said.
Fifteen-year-old volunteers working with Rochdale Borough Council officers were able to buy knives at six out of 18 premises they visited, while volunteers aged under 18 in Westminster bought knives in 17 out of 38 attempts.