Retailers have a role to play in protecting the nation’s children, Trading Standards’ executives have warned, as shops are caught selling knives to young people in parts of Yorkshire.
Pressure over knife crime has been mounting nationwide, with the Chancellor yesterday announcing an additional £100m in cash funding to tackle the crisis in the wake of recent stabbings.
Initiatives have been stepped up across Yorkshire as the region’s forces join a week of action to reduce the number of young people carrying blades.
And, amid revelations that children have been sold knives as part of undercover stings in the region, there are warnings that retailers can do more to prevent potentially lethal weapons falling into children’s hands.
“All it takes is for one knife to fall in the wrong hands to have a devastating impact on many lives – not just the victim but their friends, family, community and the perpetrator as well,” warned Det Supt Steve Thomas, operational lead for knife crime at North Yorkshire Police.
The Government is facing mounting pressures amid a surge in youth violence, with National Police Chiefs’ Council chairwoman Sara Thornton telling MPs this week there needs to be “a much more concerted response” to tackle the bloodshed.
A £100m cash injection is now to be given to police over the course of the next year to challenge what the Chancellor has described as an “epidemic”.
In just the West Midlands, Labour MP Emma Reynolds has claimed, nearly 700 children were attacked or threatened with knives last year. The number of fatal stabbings in England and Wales had risen to its highest level since records started more than 70 years ago, it emerged earlier this year.
As part of a nationwide focus on the dangers of knife crime, police in Yorkshire have stepped up action this week, with open land searches, stop and searches and information and advice sessions in schools.
In undercover test sales, set up by North Yorkshire Trading Standards is support of this, children aged 16 attempted to buy knives in 10 major retailers.
Legally, stores cannot sell to under 18s, and the young people were all armed with proof of identity to show their true age, if they had been asked. Despite this, six of the children were able to purchase knives.
In South Yorkshire, two out of 11 stores targeted by volunteers were also caught selling knives to children.
On Friday, Supermarket giant Asda became the first to vow that it is to stop selling single kitchen knives in its stores as its contribution to tackling the crisis.
Asda senior vice-president, Nick Jones, said the company had already taken steps to restrict the sale of knives, but it felt there was more it could do support attempting to bring the issue under control.
Now, Trading Standards is calling on further retailers to introduce effective age checks, and quality marks for staff training.
“While reports of underage knife sales have not been an issue in North Yorkshire, the results of these test purchases do raise concerns, particularly against the backdrop of instances of knife crime elsewhere in the country,” said County Coun Andrew Lee, executive Member for Trading Standards at North Yorkshire County Council.
“Retailers have an important role to play in ensuring our young people cannot buy potentially dangerous products, so we want to see retailers complying with their legal and social obligations.”