Knife crime investigation: The weapons teenagers can buy online within minutes

  • Watch Gregg Easteal's report

Young people can buy potentially-life threatening blades online without background checks in a matter of minutes, an ITV Tyne Tees investigation has found.

Rambo-style blades, hunting knives and machetes were among the purchases, which were made by correspondent Gregg Easteal to see if any warnings or restrictions were in place for the buyer.

None of the purchases were illegal and were completed using a laptop, debit card and the internet.

During our investigation, the items added to an online shopping cart could be done in a matter of minutes, and by any teenager still at school or in college.

Under UK law, any of the knives pictured can be purchased by people above the age of 18.

'A deadly weaponry'

Within seven days, all the knives ordered had arrived.

We showed them in a safe, secure place to Northumbria's Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuiness, who said changes could be made to the law to make it more difficult to carry a knife.

She said: "I think this is terrifying. I think this is absolutely terrifying, I think it's terrifying how easy it is to get them, I think raising the age limit is one of the tools that we could use in order to make it more difficult to carry a knife.

The 'rambo' knife is widely sold online as a survival tool. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

"We all need tools to do our jobs and legitimately some of these things will be tools for certain professions so being able to prove that that is your profession and that is what you want to use it for and therefore that being on record is a very positive thing."

One of the items purchased was a survival tool, widely known as a "rambo knife".

Ms McGuiness said: "I find that knife absolutely terrifying. I think I said to you when I first came in I don't even want to touch that and that's my reaction to it.

A tick-box is required to finalise the purchase of knives, but no proof of identity or age is required, other than to hold a debit card. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

"I can't see a reason that anyone would need that. Something has to change and it's a big question for the government - are they going to act?"

The call for tighter controls on knives was endorsed by Northumbria's Chief Constable Vanessa Jardine.

She said: "I would welcome any legislation that makes it harder for young people to get possession of knives. And if that involves raising the age limit from 18 to 21, then I'd be really, really supportive of that."

The knives were taken and shown to Northumbria's Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuiness. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The thinking behind raising the age limit for buying knives is bolstered by the science and psychology of how younger brains actually work.

Neurologist Professor Amanda Ellison, of Durham University, explained how younger brains actually work.

"An 18-year-old's brain is different to an older adult's brain. The frontal cortex, is the last part of the brain to develop in the human brain. And it does things like reasoning. It does things like consequence building. It does things like planning."

A neurologist explained the developmental delays in a child or teenager's brain, compared to that of an adult. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

When asked about the difference of putting a knife in the hands of an 18-year-old, as opposed to somebody older, Prof Ellison said: "Well they're going to find it really really hard to make rational decisions.

"Whereas older adults may say 'I have a knife in my hand, but the right thing to do is not to sink it in between somebody's shoulder blades'. It would be to put it down, walk away, diffuse the situation, calm down.

"A younger adult, if we call them that at 18, they don't have the mental capacity to do that."

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