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May 29, 2019 12:00 PM

SIX IN TEN RETAILERS SELLING KNIVES TO CHILDREN IN SOME AREAS. Amnesty Knife Bin Suffolk Constabulary (Suffolk Constabulary)

With the UK registering 100 knife crime fatalities this year, knife crime in Suffolk revealed offences involving blades have gone up 25% in five years. Data published by the Home Office showed the number of offences involving sharp instruments went up from 159 between September 2012 and September 2013, to 198 in the 12 months to September 2018.

The amnesty blade bin in Bury St Edmunds was emptied in March 2019 and contained 755 weapons including 610 knives and 145 knuckle dusters. It was further emptied during the Sceptre week and 110 knives removed. In East Suffolk the total number removed in Lowestoft was 151 items.

Six out of 10 retailers in some areas are breaking the law on underage knife with councils warning that a lack of funding for enforcement activity will make tackling the knife crime epidemic a huge challenge.

The Local Government Association (LGA), says 41 per cent of UK-based online knife retailers made illegal sales to under-18s in a test purchase operation, while shop staff are selling knives to children as young as 14.

The worrying findings come as latest official figures show a 59 per cent rise in knife crime in England and Wales in the past five years.

The dedicated Home Office Prosecutions Fund - set up as part of the Serious Violence Strategy - does not provide enough help to council trading standards teams to enforce breaches of knife law sales, by in-store and online retailers in the longer term. The £1 million funding, split equally over two years, was given to 11 councils for in-store test purchase operations in 2018/19, as well as funding one council to run a national online test purchase operation.

The success of the test purchasing operations mean most of the funding allocated for 2019/20 will have to be used to prosecute those businesses already caught making illegal knife sales. As a result, there will be only enough funding left to support further in-store test purchases by six councils, with no further online enforcement planned.

With trading standards budgets and staffing having been cut by around half since 2010, as a result of cuts to council funding, the LGA is calling for more funding to be allocated to the Prosecutions Fund to support enforcement activity in 2019/20 and for the Fund to be extended beyond 2020 as part of the Spending Review.

Councils' trading standards teams are also concerned that they don't have the necessary resources to enforce the requirements of the new Offensive Weapons Bill, which is likely to become law later this year. The Bill will make it a criminal offence for knives and dangerous corrosives sold online to be delivered to anyone aged under 18 at a residential address, and for dangerous corrosive products, such as acids, to be sold to anyone under the age of 18.

Councils will have new responsibilities for undertaking underage test purchase operations at the point of delivery for online knife sales and for enforcing restrictions on sales of acids and other corrosives. Councils also face the cost of providing advice and training for businesses about the new legal requirements.

The LGA said the Government needs to fund the extra enforcement activity needed in light of the Offensive Weapons Bill coming into force and for knife test purchase funding to be made available to many more councils to ensure the worst rogue knife retailers are brought before the courts.

Local Liberal Democrat and member of the Party's Crime and Policing Working Party, Gary Kitching said: Gary Kitching (East Suffolk Lib Dems)

"Rising knife crime is causing horrendous destruction and grief in many communities and councils are uncovering some shocking cases of illegal knife sales which risk fuelling this tragic epidemic. The retail supply of knives and acids needs to be managed robustly across all sales points, and retailers must ask for proof of age if they suspect the buyer is under 25".

"The Prosecutions Fund announced in the Serious Violence Strategy has helped some councils prosecute retailers for blatant breaches of knife sale laws, however, given the knife crime epidemic, the significant cuts to trading standards budgets and the extra enforcement activity that will be needed when the Offensive Weapons Bill becomes law, this Fund needs urgent further investment and extending to many more councils to tackle illegal knife sales and protect people from harm."

"A big element of the Party's proposed new Crime & Policing policy being put to the Lib Dems Conference in September will focus on re-energising community policing - getting to know young people - and ensuring proper provision in relation to youth services and diversion activity".

'Meanwhile, anyone who suspects that knives are being sold illegally should contact their local council's trading standards'.

Note: Office for National Statistic figures show that there were 40,829 offences involving a knife or sharp instrument for the year ending December 2018. This compares to 39,598 offences in 2017, 32,648 in 2016, 28,008 in 2015 and 25,583 in 2014.

Source: LGA Lib Dems - May 2019

The nearest Amnesty Knife Bins are in place as follows:

  • Ipswich - Princes Street Fire Station, Princes Street Ipswich, IP1 1RS
  • Lowestoft - Old Nelson Street, NR32 1PE


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