12/06/2019 12:09 BST

One In Five Teenagers Buying Knives Without ID Check Fuels Call For Crackdown

Prominent anti-knife crime campaigner calls for harsher sanctions to be placed on retailers that sell knives to underage youths.

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A prominent anti-knife crime campaigner has called for harsher sanctions to be placed upon retailers that sell knives to underage youths. 

A report revealed on Wednesday that one in five teenagers buying knives in shops were not asked for ID during mystery shopper tests across the UK in 2018.

More than half of shoppers buying age-restricted purchases online, including knives, were not asked to prove their age, a Serve Legal audit revealed

In response, anti-knife crime campaigner Garvin Snell told HuffPost UK: “It doesn’t really surprise me, to be honest. My 13-year-old daughter is a police cadet and they do mystery shopping - buying a whole host of things including buying knives - and it is easy. 

“Being able to buy knives so easily can contribute to some of the reasons why we’re seeing a high level of knife crime at the moment. If the small shop-keepers and large. Mainstream supermarkets are not checking up on the ages of the young people buying knives - and they’re giving someone a dangerous tool - then what do you expect to happen?”

More than 4,100 teens took part in secret audits of bricks and mortar stores in 2018 with homeware stores yielding the most damning results. 

A quarter of secret shoppers were not asked for ID at homeware stores, while 15% bought a knife without their age being verified at supermarkets.

Snell, whose above knife attack ‘self defence’ video was praised by police officers last summer, feels that stricter sanctions should be imposed on shops that sell weapons to underage youth.

“If the government starts mentioning fining, prosecution - potentially - and closing down premises that are selling knives to underage teenagers, shopkeepers will start paying more attention,” the 38-year-old said.

“Handing out deadly weapons to young people, you need to take some responsibility for the sort of actions they’ll be taking with them. It’s getting silly now.”

Ed Heaver, director at Serve Legal, agrees that there is more work to be done and remains “confident” that performances can be improved.

He said: “Against a tightening government stance on violent crime, our audit data for 2018 shows a significant improvement in retailer action to keep knives out of circulation amongst young people which we hope will continue to be an upward trend.

“There is still work to do, however, as nearly one in five of our young mystery shoppers were sold knives without age checks last year. Galvanised by government action and through a combination of rigorous staff training, efficient operational systems and independent auditing programmes, we’re confident that retailers will further improve their performance.”

In England and Wales, it is illegal to sell a knife, blade or axe to a person under the age of 18.

Any young person trying to buy a knife should be asked for official proof of age such as a passport, photo card driving licence or proof of age card.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are making it harder than ever for young people to purchase knives, including online.

“As part of the Serious Violence Strategy we are supporting Trading Standards through our Prosecution Fund to help them to prosecute retailers who sell knives to under 18s and the fund has already supported enforcement activity in more than 1,100 cases.”