Serious concern as shops sell knives to underage teen in covert operation
Serious concerns have been raised after a 16-year-old was able to buy knives without any interrogation of their age.
Three shops were exposed for repeatedly failing to verify the age of an undercover police cadet sent to test laws on the sale of knives.
Suffolk's public protection chief said the sale of potential weapons to minors highlighted serious concerns - but was encouraged by the majority of shops refusing to complete the test purchases.
Suffolk Trading Standards set up the trial at locations around the county to support police as part of the Operation Sceptre week of action on knife crime.
Both organisations previously teamed up to target 14 different retailers in Ipswich, Stowmarket and Bury St Edmunds, with tests designed to determine whether or not premises were enforcing any 'Challenge 21' or 'Challenge 25' identification checking policies.
Initial test purchases, using a 19-year-old police cadet, identified seven out of 23 premises failed to conduct any age verification.
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As part of Operation Sceptre, the same seven premises were visited for a re-inspection, using a 16-year-old olice cadet - below the legal age for buying a knife.
Of the seven tested, three failed to successfully challenge the volunteer and refuse the sale.
Suffolk County Council said underage knife sales were not necessarily an issue locally, but that the results raised concerns against a backdrop of knife crime in the UK.
Richard Rout, head of public protection, said: "While I am delighted that the majority of our retailers are taking their responsibilities seriously, these tests highlight some serious concerns. Retailers must ensure staff feel empowered to challenge buyers of age-restricted products if they are in any doubt.
"We saw several premises improve and challenge for ID upon re-inspection, which should serve as an example of what retailers can achieve."
Superintendent Kerry Cutler, of Suffolk police, asked all retailers to ensure staff understood legal requirements, adding: "We all must play our part in keeping Suffolk safe, and it is disappointing to see that we still have retailers who are not challenging young people when selling age restricted products."
To buy a knife in England and Wales, you must be over 18.
If you witness the sale of knives to anyone under 18, call 03454 040506.
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