Knives being sold illegally to teens

KNIVES are being sold illegally to children as young as 14 in Suffolk, trading standards chiefs have revealed.An undercover survey carried out in the county has pinpointed a number of retailers breaking the law -and shops could now face prosecution in a new clampdown on the problem.

KNIVES are being sold illegally to children as young as 14 in Suffolk, trading standards chiefs have revealed.

An undercover survey carried out in the county has pinpointed a number of retailers breaking the law -and shops could now face prosecution in a new clampdown on the problem.

The news comes at a time when fears are growing about the prevalence of knife crime nationwide and after a mounting toll of tragic stabbings.

In the latest incident, a father-of-two was stabbed to death outside his home in Hackney, east London, by a gang of youths on Sunday night.

Suffolk County Council is now being asked to use its powers to give permission for trading standards officers to carry out “covert test purchasing operations”.

They would see youngsters go into shops and try to buy blades. Shopkeepers repeatedly breaking the law could be prosecuted, with the offence carrying a sentence of six months in prison, a £5,000 fine or both.

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But Joanna Spicer, portfolio holder for public protection, admitted there were “far too many youngsters walking around with knives than there should be”.

“We have no idea how many knives are used in a threatening way rather than knife crime. We have anecdotal evidence of knives in schools, but this is difficult to collect,” she said.

But during an initial trading standards and police exercise to assess the scale of the problem in Suffolk, 14-year-old boys were able to buy kitchen knives in two stores out of the five they visited in Ipswich.

The survey coincided with the five-week knife amnesty earlier this year, which saw more than 1,500 weapons handed into police stations across Suffolk.

Figures released at the same time showed that knife-related incidents in the county have risen by 30pc between 2001 and 2005.

A spokesman for Suffolk police said: “We are targeting violence in a public place as one of our priorities and included in that is knife crime.

He said that in 2003-4, 53 crimes involving a knife were committed by under 16-year-olds in Suffolk, rising to 66 the following year and dropping to 36 this year .