Knives sold to children as young as 13, undercover operation finds

A general image of a knife Credit: PA

Knives are being sold to children as young as 13 in Avon and Somerset, police say.

Undercover police cadets were sent into shops with the task of trying to buy a knife, to check whether retailers were following the law.

In one instance, a machete-style knife was sold to a young cadet. One in eight retailers failed the test by selling the blades to under-18s.

Volunteer police cadets aged 13 to 17 took part in an undercover operation with the police and council's Trading Standards officers on Saturday 20 April.

They visited 80 shops across the Avon and Somerset area in an attempt to purchase a knife or bladed weapon.

Large retailers and supermarkets were tested as well as private and independently owned shops.

While the majority of retailers refused to sell, 10 retailers unlawfully sold a knife or bladed article to underage cadets.

One of the retailers failed multiple test purchases on the same day.

Cameron, a 15-year-old cadet, said: "As soon as you go into the shop you just get hit with a massive amount of adrenaline, as soon as you go through those doors.

"It’s good that we’re trying to get knives off the street, with us doing this, hopefully it’s teaching the shop that they need more training."

Another, aged 13, said: "It’s worrying, it’s not safe for the public if kids are able to buy knives without ID."

This operation came just weeks after Avon and Somerset Police sent a letter to the retailers urging them to help them in their fight against knife crime.

The letter, which reminded retailers of their legal responsibility not to sell knives to under-18s, stated: “We know that many children and young people are purchasing and carrying knives with the false perception that this will keep them safe, when in fact, carrying a knife increases their risk of being involved in violence.

"Knives in the hands of young people can lead to very serious consequences and they are 50% more likely to be a victim of knife crime if they are carrying one themselves.

“This is why we are calling on you, our local retailers, to help play a vital part in breaking this chain.

"We know a lot of sales likely take place online but where our retailers do sale knives or bladed articles, we urge you to help us prevent these from getting into the wrong hands.”

Chief Inspector Mike Vass, Knife Crime Lead for Avon and Somerset Police, said: “Whilst we saw a lot of reassuring best practice by many of the stores visited as part of this operation, any knife sold has the potential to bring tragedy to our communities, something we have seen far too much of in recent months.

“We cannot police our way out of knife crime and serious violence on our own, it needs to be a society-wide approach to address and do all we can to tackle this very real threat to young people, which is why we call on our partners and communities to play their part.

“We have worked closely with Bristol City Council Trading Standards to ensure that all available sanctions are considered when dealing with those retailers who failed their test purchase, prosecuting where we can and providing education programmes and targeted work to ensure that lessons are learned to prevent knives getting into the wrong hands.”

Sarah Saunders from Bristol City Council Trading Standards said: “It is illegal to sell knives to anyone under the age of 18. Any sale of this nature is hugely concerning.

"Trading Standards Officers can offer retailers advice and practical guidance through the No Proof of Age, No Sale scheme which will help them to avoid selling age restricted products to children and to help protect our communities from harm.

“We are committed to working with Avon & Somerset police to reduce knife crime. It is an ongoing threat to our communities, particularly our young people.”