Big supermarkets still selling knives to children

Children are still buying knives from big UK supermarkets including Tesco and Asda – despite retailers’ recent public pledges to toughen up their sales policies – according to the results of tests carried out by National Trading Standards officers.

It is illegal to sell a knife to anyone under the age of 18, yet the new data shows that of 2,231 official “test purchases” in England and Wales over 12 months to the end of March, retailers failed to prevent the sale of a weapon to a child on 344 separate occasions (15%).

Poundland, Home Bargains, Asda and Tesco sold knives to children at least 15 times each during the tests. Separately, 100 online test purchases were carried out for the first time. These led to an even higher rate of purchase, with children buying knives on 41 occasions.

In April the Co-op said it had stopped selling kitchen knives in response to soaring levels of knife crime in the UK. The previous month Asda said it would withdraw single kitchen knives from its stores, adding that single knives were stolen more often than sets of knives.

Toby Harris, chair of National Trading Standards, said: “Restricting the sale of knives to children is clearly a difficult issue for retailers, especially those with large numbers of outlets, staff and delivery partners, and I am aware that many retailers are working incredibly hard to train staff and introduce robust procedures to stem the flow of knives to children.

“But our tests show that it’s still too easy for a child to buy a knife in store or online. We know that young people are being cautioned and convicted for knife crime offences, and as such I urge all retailers to do more.”

Kit Malthouse, minister for policing and crime, said: “I am deeply concerned to see some retailers are breaking the law and I expect them to take urgent action to stop young people from getting hold of knives in the first place.”

In 2018 the discount retail chain B&M was ordered to pay £480,000 in fines and £12,428 in costs after selling knives to children. Croydon trading standards has recently successfully prosecuted companies for selling knives online.

Responding to the findings, Asda said: “While we are clearly disappointed with the results from a small number of cases between April 2018 and March 2019, we would like to reassure customers that we have since provided updated training for colleagues and have clear policies in place to ensure we meet all our responsibilities as a retailer.”

Tesco said it had toughened up its display and sales policies, with changes introduced after the test purchase period. A spokesman said: “Tesco takes the safety of our colleagues, customers and the communities we serve very seriously, and we have made significant changes to our approach, including a two-stage age verification process.”

The Guardian revealed this month that knives can be purchased on Facebook Marketplace without age verification despite a recent law requiring checks.


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