Any profit made on the sale of a £1 knife was more than wiped out when Croydon magistrates imposed a fine and costs totalling almost £7,000 on a London Road store.
The court was told (on Tuesday 7 June) that a member of staff of PoundMart sold the eight-inch blade to two teenagers, aged 14 and 15, when Croydon Council trading standards officers carried out a test-purchasing exercise on 30 October, last year.
The youngsters selected the knife from a display, along with other items, and took them to the cashpoint to make payment. Taking the money and placing the goods in a bag, the sales assistant failed to ask for proof of the customers’ age.
Magistrates heard that officers saw only one age-related warning notice, in English, on a sheet of A4 paper stuck to the side door of the till area. The tills had no scanner or prompt facility urging staff to check age and identification.
The knife’s packaging carried a small notice saying: “Warning: It is an offence to sell knives or knife blades to a person under the age of 18”.
In interview, the sales assistant said that this was her first job, and that she had asked to work there as, like herself, the staff members spoke Bengali. Her job interview had been informal to the point of her not being asked to sign an employment contract, and she was paid approximately £3 an hour, cash in hand. She was not fluent in English; had had, at the time, no formal training relating to the sale of age-restricted products; and had no knowledge of warning posters within the shop.
PoundMart, the court was told, had been sent a letter, last October, following a previous visit by an officer during which the manager was told of free under-age sales training, hosted by the trading standards team, for himself and staff. No response was received from the company.
PoundMart was unrepresented at the hearing, and, finding the case proved, the court imposed a fine of £5,000, costs of £1,840 and a £140 surcharge.
“It’s quite frustrating that, despite all the information and advice offered to shops across the borough, and the free training available from our trading standards department, we’re still getting cases of the sale of age-restricted goods to young people.
“Apart from the traders’ obligation to abide by the laws around such sales, they have a moral obligation to safeguard those youngsters from the possible consequences of making a quick buck by selling alcohol, tobacco goods or, as in this case, potentially lethal weapons to under-age customers.
“I’d urge all the borough’s traders to take heed of the swingeing fines that follow when our officers catch them making these illegal sales, and realise that it simply isn’t worth the risk.”