Children still sold knives illegally in London despite soaring gang crime investigation reveals

Underage children as young as 13 are still being sold knives across London – despite soaring youth crime, a damning new investigation revealed.

Trading standards officers showed shopkeepers are flouting the law to sell teenagers large kitchen knives or craft knives.

In a series of stings, children as young at 13 were able to buy meat cleaver, box-cutters to Stanley knives.

They were also sold booze and fags with no questions asked.

Spotchecks were carried out by council trading standards departments and the police using child volunteers aged 12 to 17.

It is illegal to sell knives, alcohol and tobacco to anyone under 18, but the sting found on 258 occasions the items were sold to children without any identity checks over 18 months.

According to the Metropolitan police, knife crime has surged 16 per cent in London – reflecting a rise in violent crime nationwide.

The total number of offences involving a knife or bladed instrument according to police records have risen to a seven year high of 40,147 in the year to March 2018.

In February this year, over 250 knives and swords were seized across London in just one week with 283 arrests for carrying them, including teenagers.

In one example, a 15-year-old girl was able to walk into a south London shop and leave with an eight-inch kitchen knife.

She said: “I have bought this knife in a home wear store in Peckham, they did not ask me for ID.

“I just selected the one I wanted and they were very happy to give it to me.”

The 26 local authorities carried out a total of 2,593 test purchases in shops for knives or all prohibited items.

Although a majority of shopkeepers refused to sell to underage customers, a sixth – 14 per cent – sold knives and an eighth – 12 per cent – sold alcohol to children.

This shows no improvement from 2016, when 140 out of 1000 shops tested sold knives to children – a whopping 14 per cent.

The stings by London Trading Standards (LTS) were carried out with the Metropolitan Police as part of Operation Sceptre, which aims to reduce knife crime across London.

Detective Superintendent Sean Yates said: “Knife crime devastates families and communities, and selling knives to children is both illegal and unacceptable.

“Tackling knife and gang crime is one of the Met’s top priorities, and we are working closely with Trading Standards, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) and retailers to do everything we can to prevent young people getting hold of knives in the first place.

“Everyone has a part to play in ending the deeply concerning rise in knife crime that we have seen across the capital and to spread the message that carrying a knife is more likely to ruin your life than save it.”

Last month a boy was disemboweled in a 30-strong gang fight in broad daylight in Camberwell.

Sophie Linden, Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, said: “Knives have no place on the streets of London.

“We are doing everything we can, together with the Met, retailers and Trading Standards, to crack down on rogue traders selling them illegally.

“That includes pushing the courts to review sentences given to retailers who fail to comply with the law and this approach forms part of the Mayor’s overall strategy to bear down on knife crime.”

London Trading Standards is a coordinated partnership of 33 trading standards services across London who share intelligence.

Trish Burls, London Trading Standards’ lead officer for knife crime said: “The partnership work to tackle the illegal supply of knives, alcohol and tobacco to children.

“We are disappointed that a thirteen year old has been allowed to buy a knife in a London shop but we note the relatively high levels of compliance among the majority of retailers.

“We would encourage retailers to continue to sign up to Responsible Retailer Schemes and work with us to help prevent children from being allowed to buy age restricted goods”.

By Ben Gelblum and Daniel Hammond

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