Officers from Hampshire Constabulary and the Isle of Wight council Trading Standards team undertook a test purchasing operation relating to the sale of knives to teenagers.
Anyone under the age of 18 is prohibited under the law to purchase a knife. Where a knife is sold to an underage person, the person who sold the knife and the retailer can be held responsible. The maximum penalty for selling a knife is up to 6 months imprisonment and a £5,000 fine.
The team used teenage volunteers as part of the operation which was undertaken in 20 local and high street retailers on the Island.
A total of 17 of the premises visited applied the correct checks and refused to sell a knife to the volunteer without ID being produced. Three shops (one national discount retailer, and two local shops) failed to ask for ID or undertake necessary checks. These retailers have been informed of their failure with education and guidance on best practices provided to them on this occasion.
Sergeant Stuart Ross said: “Although only a small percentage of businesses failed the test purchases, there is a concern that not carrying out the correct procedures can lead to young people easily obtaining knives. Further test purchase operations will be undertaken in the future, but overall I’m pleased this operation was a success.
“We are working closely with Trading Standards colleagues to raise awareness with shops across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight about this issue. We are also offering retail staff further training and education with regards to best practice procedures,
“Amongst some groups of young people there is an attitude that can lead to individuals wanting to carry a knife for protection or for use in crime. We are working hard to tackle this attitude alongside ensuring that legislation for the sale of knives is observed.
“We recognise that education and intervention are an integral part of bringing about a change in young people’s attitudes. As such we work closely with schools, voluntary agencies and other organisations as part of our education and youth diversion programmes”.
Operation Sceptre is a national anti-knife crime initiative which is led by the Metropolitan Police. Hampshire Constabulary is one of the Forces across the UK which are adopting the campaign and brand. This test purchasing operation is one example of activities we are undertaking as part of Operation Sceptre across the two counties. Fortunately gang related knife crime is very rare in Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight, therefore our focus will be slightly different to that of the Metropolitan Police. In the first instance we are focusing on the development and sharing of intelligence relating to knife crime to enable us to create a better picture of this type of offence across the two counties. We are also working with partner agencies, young people, and retailers, through education and intervention activities as part of Operation Sceptre.