Illegally selling knives online to a child has landed the owners of major shopping website Very with a £20,000 fine under the latest groundbreaking court cases brought by Croydon Council.
Croydon Council has now successfully prosecuted 15 businesses across the country under its trading standards team’s pilot clampdown against illegal online knife sales to children. The scheme is backed by the Home Office and National Trading Standards.
The latest cases – against Very’s operating company Shop Direct Home Shopping Limited and Lancashire-based tool specialist Today Tech LLP – came after a 13-year-old test purchaser in Croydon, who was a volunteer for the council, was able to buy knives online from both companies.
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.
In the first of the two latest cases, Very’s parent company Shop Direct Home Shopping Ltd was found guilty at Croydon Magistrates’ Court of one offence of selling a £21.98 three-piece Joe Wicks kitchen knife set online to the teenager via www.very.co.uk on 20 March 2019.
The 13-year-old used a false name and false date of birth to buy the knife set, which was then delivered to an address in Croydon a few days later. The court heard that the Very website contained warnings for customers selecting age-restricted products, but had no systems in place for checking the information provided was correct.
The court ordered Shop Direct Home Shopping Limited, of Speke Road in Liverpool, to pay a £20,000 fine plus £10,634.45 in full prosecution costs and a £170 victim surcharge on 26 February 2020.
In the second case, at Lavender Hill Magistrates’ Court on Friday (6 March), Today Tech LLP was found guilty of selling an 18mm snap utility knife for £7.08 on 9 January 2019 to an underage buyer via www.milwaukeetoolstore.co.uk
Using a false name and address, the teenaged test purchaser was not prompted by the website to provide either their date of birth or proof of age. Today Tech, whose business is based at Heywood Distribution Park in Pilsworth Road, near Rochdale, was ordered to pay full prosecution costs of £10,599.20, a £1,000 fine and victim surcharge of £100.
In both cases, the council’s trading standards team had sent advance letters to the companies warning that a test purchase attempt was likely.
Councillor Hamida Ali, Croydon Council’s cabinet member for safer Croydon and communities, said: “Too many online retailers are failing to follow the law and are illegally selling knives to children and young people. Online knife sales are having a real effect on our streets where we are losing too many precious young lives. This is utter negligence by large as well as small retailers – they are continuing to fail our young people and this needs to stop now.”
Lord Toby Harris, Chair, National Trading Standards, said: “Selling knives to children can have tragic consequences and we urge retailers to put stronger measures in place to restrict underage knife sales. These prosecutions act as an important reminder that selling knives to children is against the law and retailers will be prosecuted.
“Our test purchasing programme revealed that many retailers have been selling knives without undertaking required age verifications; we discovered a 12% failure rate among retail premises visited, which grew to 50% among online retailers. Many retailers are working hard to train staff and introduce robust procedures to stem the flow of knives to children, but these hearings demonstrate that failures can lead to prosecutions and heavy fines.”