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Warning after retailers sell knives to teens without asking for ID

Assorted knives on a table

Posted on: 27 August 2019

Traders are being reminded by Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service that they are playing a lottery with their livelihoods by not asking for ID when selling age restricted goods such as knives, tobacco and alcohol to young people.

The warning follows two recent operations carried out in August. One was a mystery shopper exercise where an 18 year old volunteer attempted to buy a knife from a range of retailers, including supermarkets, fishing tackle shops, garden centres and gift shops, in Devon, Somerset and Torbay.

Eleven of the 16 retailers sold a knife to the 18 year old without first asking for proof of age. Although it is recognised that it is not an offence to do this, retailers are putting themselves at risk as they are not taking steps to ensure they don’t sell to under 18s.

Five of seven retailers tested in Somerset, three of four retailers in Devon and three of five retailers in Torbay failed to ask for ID before making the sale.

The second operation was a test purchasing exercise where 15 and 16-year-old volunteers tried to buy alcohol in six premises in the Torbay area. On every occasion they were asked for ID and refused.

The owner of any business caught selling age restricted items to a child could be fined and receive a criminal record.

Both the owner and the person who made the sale can be held responsible – even if the owner wasn’t the one who made the sale.

Jay Capel of Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service said : “Across the region 69 per cent of premises we tested for knife sales failed to ask for ID. This is very concerning considering the current issues surrounding young people and knives.
“All businesses selling restricted products should ask themselves ‘does the person in front of me look under 25?’ If the answer is ‘yes’, the customer should be asked to produce proof-of-age identification to prove that they can make that purchase. Business owners must ensure their staff are trained to ask for ID.”

Councillor Rufus Gilbert, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for Trading Standards, said: “The number of shops selling knives without asking for ID is concerning. We are not just talking about small independent traders but national retailers as well and it is imperative that businesses train their staff and take steps to help safeguard children and protect the livelihoods of traders.
“The results in Torbay however are hugely encouraging and show that businesses routinely ask for ID when young people attempt to alcohol. This is the mindset we encourage retailers selling knives to have and our online tool kit will help them put the processes in place to do that.”

Trading standards recommends that retailers should ask any customer who looks under 25 and is trying to buy a knife or any age restricted product to produce proof-of-age.

Sign up for our free No Proof of Age No Sale training resource at the Trading Standards Southwest website by clicking here.

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