Retailers 'sold knives' to children as young as 13

almost a quarter of shops in some areas are breaking the law on under-age knife sales. Credit: PA

Retailers have sold knives to children as young as 13, local authorities have found.

One in four shops in some parts of the UK are breaking the law on under-age knife sales, the Local Government Association (LGA) said after test purchases for Trading Standards.

In one area an underage teenager was sold a machete, another was sold a lock knife and a 14-year-old managed to buy a nine-inch serrated knife.

Seven out of 29 shops, including two major supermarket chains, sold a knife to a person under 18 in purchases undertaken by Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards, together with police.

Knives and blades were sold to children as young as 13 in 96 out of 725 test purchases carried out by London Trading Standards and the police across the capital last year.

Four retailers, including a major supermarket chain, sold either razor blades or craft knives to a 15-year-old boy and a 16-year-old boy.

A trader who sold a four-piece craft knife set to two underage teenagers has been ordered to pay more than £2,000 in fines and costs following a prosecution by Croydon Council.

It is illegal to sell knives to anyone aged under 18.

Those who failed test purchases have either been prosecuted or cautioned, face prosecution or have received warnings and compliance advice on underage knife sales.

The LGA said heftier fines and tougher sentences were needed for irresponsible retailers who break knife sale laws.

The latest official figures showed a 20% annual rise in knife crime in England and Wales.

Simon Blackburn, chairman of the LGA's Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: "Despite most retailers passing test purchases of knives, trading standards teams at councils across the country are uncovering some shocking abuses of the law.

"Knife crime has risen significantly in the past year. Clearly there are many different ways that people access knives, whether from home, high street stores or online sales, but we need to make sure that the retail supply of knives is managed robustly across all sales points."