Abingdon retailer guilty of selling knife to teenager

A store in Abingdon whose employee sold a knife to a 16-year-old in December 2019 has pleaded guilty following a prosecution brought by Oxfordshire County Council’s Trading Standards Service.

Lewis Baker Retail Ltd pleaded guilty to a single offence under S141A of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 at Oxford Magistrates’ Court on Friday 24 July.

The Court heard that on 20 December 2019, Trading Standards made a test purchase of a Blackspur utility knife from Lewis Baker Retail Ltd with the assistance of an underaged volunteer from the Fire Cadets.

The company was fined £750 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £2,084.46 and a £75 victim surcharge. The Magistrates acknowledged that since the offence the business now had “simple and straightforward safeguards in place” and that “steps had been taken in the right direction” in respect of training, signage and refusals records. The bench also took into consideration the three-month gap in trading due to lockdown; their co-operation with investigation; and gave credit for the early guilty plea.

Councillor Judith Heathcoat, the County Council’s cabinet member for Community Safety, said:

“Anyone selling age-restricted-products needs to be doing everything possible to make sure their staff are properly trained and confident enough to challenge people for proof of age and identity, when appropriate.”

“With tackling knife crime a priority for many areas, it is essential that businesses have taken all reasonable steps to ensure they have a robust system in place to prevent such sales from happening.”

Head of Oxfordshire County Council Trading Standards, Jody Kerman, said:

“We know that these are difficult times for retailers but they must understand that if they fail to set up preventative measures or train their staff adequately then their business is liable for illegal knife sales made at their premises. Before any test purchasing takes place all stores are visited by Trading Standards officers and given advice on the sale of age-restricted products. They are also informed that test purchasing will take place in their area shortly.”

From April 2018 to March 2019 Trading Standards services across England and Wales carried out 2,231 test purchases of knives with 344 stores failing to make the required age checks (15%). Over the same period, there were 5,149 hospital admissions due to assault with a sharp object and 47,100 offences involving a knife or sharp instrument recorded by police in England and Wales.

To combat this in Oxfordshire, Trading Standards will be providing business advice and conducting further test purchasing to ensure retailers and their staff are complying with the law. As part of ongoing Operation Sceptre, test purchasing and business visits will also be done by Thames Valley Police.

Shop staff involved in the physical sale of knives to anyone under the age of 18 can also face unlimited fines and up to six months imprisonment. In March this year a former employee of Poundland in Cowley was ordered to pay £879 in fines & costs after she sold a knife to an underaged volunteer in July 2019 during another Trading Standards operation.

Another business from the Vale of the White Horse charged with a similar offence is due to appear at Oxford Magistrates’ Court on the 07 August 2020.

Anyone with information about the illegal sale of knives, alcohol or cigarettes to people under 18 should contact Oxfordshire County Council’s Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133 or by email: Trading.Standards@Oxfordshire.gov.uk