Oxfordshire (Challow) store guilty of selling knife to teenager

A retailer in Challow, 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.

Haynes of Challow Limited pleaded guilty to a single offence under S141A of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 at Oxford Magistrates’ Court on Friday 07 August 2020.

The Court heard that on 17 December 2019, Trading Standards made a test purchase of a Stanley knife from Haynes of Challow with the assistance of a 16-year-old volunteer from the Fire Cadets.

The company pleaded guilty by post and was fined £7,500. The council was awarded its prosecution costs of £2.222.81 and the company was also ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £190.

The Magistrates were minded to fine the company in the region of £10,000 based on its turnover and the seriousness of knife crime related matters but took account of the early guilty plea.

The court noted that there were some significant aggravating factors in the case including the fact that the trader had been given specific advice on under age sales of knives before the sale was made, that there was no effective training structure in place for staff, and that the company sells a wide range of age restricted products.

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

“Anyone who sells age-restricted-products must ensure their staff are adequately trained and prepared to request a valid form of identification, when appropriate.

“We have all seen the tragic consequences of what happens when there are confrontations between people wielding knives. All too often those involved are under 18.

“One way of stopping such awful incidents occurring is for businesses to take sufficient steps to prevent knives being supplied to children in the first place.”

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

“Wherever possible, Trading Standards works with businesses to assist them comply with the law rather than taking legal action.

“Prior to test purchases being attempted, stores are visited by Trading Standards officers and given advice on the sale of age-restricted products. They are also informed of upcoming test purchasing and given time to implement improvements to their processes prior to the tests being carried out.

“Despite these measures, we unfortunately still get underage sales being made and retailers failing to take the reasonable steps to prevent such purchases, as the law requires. When such incidents occur, we will take the appropriate enforcement action, including prosecution.”

From April 2019 to March 2020 Trading Standards services across England and Wales carried out 1,614 test purchases of knives with 210 stores failing to make the required age checks (13%). This is a drop in the failure rate by 2% compared to 2018/19 but the majority of sales made (68%) were from independent retailers.

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 and costs after she sold a knife to an underaged volunteer in July 2019 during another Trading Standards operation.

In July 2020, another Oxfordshire business, Lewis Baker Retail Ltd, pleaded guilty to a similar offence and was ordered to pay £2,909.46 in fines and costs.

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

Photo: A selection of knives sold to Trading Standards test purchasers in 2019.