A Home Office-backed pilot nationwide clampdown against illegal online knife sales to children has secured its first successful prosecution led by Croydon Council.
SD International Trading Limited was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay over £2,250 in costs after pleading guilty at Croydon Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday (25 June) to selling a knife online to a child.
This conviction is the first successful case in a Croydon-led nationwide pilot clampdown against online knife sales to children that is backed by National Trading Standards and the Home Office.
The court heard that the 13-year-old, who was a volunteer test purchaser for Croydon Council’s trading standards team, was able to buy the snap-off trade knife because the website run by SD International did not have systems in place to prevent underage online sales.
Under the Criminal Justice Act 1988 as amended by the Offensive Weapons Act 1996, it is illegal to sell a knife, knife blade, razor blade or axe to anyone under 18.
Under supervision by a council trading standards officer, the child went onto the website – Ironmongeryonline.com – on 21 November 2018 to buy the knife, which was in 18-millimetre blade segments.
The council’s advocate told the court that half of all knife crime in London was committed by children. She said SD International:
• Showed no warnings on the website that the knife was an age-restricted product
• Did not ask for a date of birth to be entered during the sales process
• Had no staff training in place around underage knife sales
• Did not record refused knife sales
The court also heard that the test purchaser bought the knife using a pre-paid card and it was delivered to a mailbox address eight days later, with no identity checks made on delivery.
In mitigation, SD International’s defence counsel apologised on behalf of the family-owned company for a “gap in the company’s procedures”, and said it had since improved its online processes and stopped selling knives.
Magistrates sentenced SD International Trading Ltd to pay a fine of £10,000, which was reduced from £15,000 because of their early guilty plea, and also ordered the company to pay the council’s full costs of £2,257 and a £170 victim surcharge.
Chair of the magistrates’ bench Roger Brice said blades should not fall “into the wrong hands, especially children”. Mr Brice said: “Both in-person and online sales should be conducted within the law, with responsibility falling upon the seller to make sure the verification of age is robustly checked.
“The selling of blades to children has to and must stop. We place this in a bracket of high culpability given there were no age verification processes in place, there was no training for staff and there was no policy over the sale of restricted items.”
“We are working closely with the police, health and crucially communities to take a public health approach to tackling knife crime to prevent violence from taking place. With the help of our young volunteers, our trading standards team is leading the way nationally by targeting online sales across the country which too often are the reason that young people in particular can get hold of knives illegally.
“Selling knives to children is illegal and incredibly dangerous and this sentence makes that clear, sending out a clear warning that all businesses – including online – must ensure they follow the law or risk being prosecuted.”
Councillor Hamida Ali, cabinet member for safer Croydon and communities
Lord Toby Harris, Chair of the National Trading Standards Board, said: “Businesses must have a robust system in place to prevent the sale of knives to children under 18. Our programme with the Home Office is still in the early stages but the evidence is already showing that knives appear to be being sold illegally to young people. Retailers need to be aware of their responsibilities and to play their part in tackling this issue by taking immediate action.”