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Knives and alcohol still being sold to children in London shops

Posted 14/09/18

Test purchases conducted by London Trading Standards (LTS) have shown that shops in London are still selling knives and alcohol to children as young as 13. Tobacco was also high on the list of age-restricted products sold to children, with tobacco being sold to 14-year olds.

So far this year, 700 spot checks (known as test purchasing) have been carried out by 20 London Trading Standards departments and the Metropolitan Police, using child volunteers between the ages of 12 and 17.

The above figures were released during London Trading Standards Week, a five-day campaign that raises awareness of consumer protection issues with the public and ensures legitimate business can thrive in the capital.

It is illegal to sell knives, alcohol and tobacco to anyone under 18.

Protecting young consumers from age-restricted products continues to be a priority for trading standards, with local authority trading standards services working alongside the police to stop such products getting into the hands of children. LTS works with the Metropolitan Police on Operation Sceptre, which aims to reduce knife crime and the number of families affected by knife crime across London.

Over the past 18 months, 26 local authorities conducted a total of 2,593 test purchases for knives, alcohol and tobacco using child volunteers between the ages of 12 and 17. Although a majority of shops refused to sell to underage customers, test purchases resulted in a total of 285 sales, with 14% of shops selling knives and 12% selling alcohol.

Detective Superintendent Sean Yates from the Metropolitan Police, said: “Knife crime devastates families and communities, and selling knives to children is both illegal and unacceptable.

Tackling knife and gang crime is one of the Met’s top priorities, and we are working closely with Trading Standards, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) and retailers to do everything we can to prevent young people getting hold of knives in the first place. We are also targeting those who carry weapons and cracking down on online videos that glamorise and encourage this terrible violence.

Everyone has a part to play in ending the deeply concerning rise in knife crime that we have seen across the capital and to spread the message that carrying a knife is more likely to ruin your life than save it.”

Sophie Linden, Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, said: “Knives have no place on the streets of London and we are doing everything we can, together with the Met, retailers and Trading Standards, to crack down on rogue traders selling them illegally. That includes pushing the courts to review sentences given to retailers who fail to comply with the law and this approach forms part of the Mayor’s overall strategy to bear down on knife crime.

“We are clear that knife crime destroys communities and the only way we are going to rid our streets of these dangerous weapons is by working together to stop them getting into the hands of young Londoners and to strongly challenge the attitude that it’s acceptable and safe to carry a knife. It’s not.”   

Trish Burls, London Trading Standards' lead officer for knife crime said: "The partnership work to tackle the illegal supply of knives, alcohol and tobacco to children continues to utilise London Trading Standards' expertise in conducting test purchasing and our close links with local business”.

“We are disappointed that a thirteen year old has been allowed to buy a knife in a London shop but we note the relatively high levels of compliance among the majority of retailers. We would encourage retailers to continue to sign up to Responsible Retailer Schemes and work with us to help prevent children from being allowed to buy age restricted goods”.


“Anyone with information about shops that sell age restricted products to children can report it anonymously via the London Trading Standards reporting tool at www.londontradingstandards.org.uk<http://www.londontradingstandards.org.uk"

Smoking, vaping and illicit tobacco

Illegal tobacco and related products are a key concern for trading standards, with Brent, Croydon and Tower Hamlets councils recently conducting ongoing large-scale seizures of such products. Trading standards is aware that traders who deal in illegal cigarettes are more likely to sell to underage customers, as cheap ‘fakes’ make tobacco more accessible to young people.

Tobacco and smoking-related products, including e-cigarettes, are age-restricted products. According to figures from the latest Tobacco Control Survey by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, 93% of councils in England have conducted activities related to illicit tobacco and related products.

LTS will also be partnering with detection dog specialists, Wagtail, to provide tobacco education via local authorities and demonstrate how dogs are used to detect illegal tobacco.

Collin Singer, Managing Director at Wagtail UK Ltd said: “Our Wagtail Tobacco Control Education Unit is an ideal platform for our Trading Standards partners to portray the message about the dangers of illegal tobacco and other consumer protection issues.  It helps to demonstrate the capabilities of our detection dogs and their ability to detect illegal tobacco, often in cleverly constructed concealments.  Our unit is also an excellent forum for intelligence gathering and engagement with the local community.”

LTS Week

London Trading Standards is a coordinated partnership of 33 local authority trading standards services across London, sharing intelligence and working collaboratively to ensure each service can maintain consumer protection despite severe cuts to public resources.

LTS Week takes place 10 – 14 September 2018. Follow @London_T_S and @CTSI_UK on Twitter for full updates.

The aim of London Trading Standards Week is to promote and raise awareness about the wide range of work carried out by Trading Standards Services across London. Further details about the rest of the campaign can be found on the website, www.londontradingstandards.org.uk. #LTSweek2018 


Editors notes:

The aim of London Trading Standards Week is to promote and raise awareness about the wide range of work carried out by Trading Standards Services across London. Further details about the rest of the campaign can be found on the website, www.londontradingstandards.org.uk. #LTS Week

      1.        London Trading Standards (LTS) represents the 33 Local Authority Trading Standards services in the London Region. We share information and awareness campaigns across the capital to protect consumers and safeguard legitimate enterprise. http://www.londontradingstandards.org.uk/

     2.        CTSI is a training and membership organisation that has represented the interests of the Trading Standards profession since 1881 nationally and internationally. We aim to raise the profile of the profession while working towards fairer, better informed and safer consumer and business communities. CTSI’s members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities and in businesses. www.tradingstandards.uk

     3.        Our members advise on and enforce laws that govern the way we buy, sell, rent and hire goods and services. We carry out inspections and monitor or investigate complaints. We endeavour to work with businesses to help achieve compliance but ultimately we can prosecute those who break the law

     4.        Consumers may report London related information on trading standards issues to London Trading Standards, via our online reporting tool http://www.londontradingstandards.org.uk/report-consumer-crime/. The information will be passed on to the relevant authority or organisation. Please note it is a confidential no-reply service. If you need advice or guidance please contact the Citizens Advice Consumer helpline. https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/

     5.        LTS Week (#LTSweek2018) runs from 10 to 14 September 2018 and this press release relates to the first day, which is focusing on product safety. The theme for LTS Week is London Trading Standards - Protecting Consumers; Safeguarding Businesses. The aim is to promote and raise awareness about the wide range of work carried out by Trading Standards Services locally and highlighting the following priorities for London:

  •          Day 1: Product Safety, to raise awareness of unsafe goods, such as used tyres
  •          Day 2: Scams and Doorstep Sales, to help protect the vulnerable from fraudsters
  •          Day 3: Buying a Used Car, to highlight potential pitfalls of purchasing a used car
  •          Day 4: Housing, to stop private tenants being ripped off by rogue landlords
  •          Day 5: Protecting Young People, dangers of underage sales of restricted goods 

Underage sales:

     6.        A YouTube film showcasing a London Trading Standards test purchasing operation along with an example of responsible retailing is available at https://youtu.be/pF2SjsJTiNY

     7.        Examples of London Trading Standards prosecution results from 2017 and 2018:


      8.        Robust age verification by retailers will prevent illegal underage sales - London Trading Standards supports the use of PASS approved proof of age cards such as the Proof Of Age London (PAL) card

     9.        Retailer advice can be found at the trading standards business companion website

  10.        In March 2016 the government launched a voluntary agreement with major retailers on a set of principles to prevent the underage sale of knives in their stores and through their websites

  11.        Further details about LTS underage sales work can be found at londontradingstandards.org.uk/underage-sales/


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