Shops in north selling knives to underage children, report warns
NEW research has shown 41 per cent of shops in Northern Ireland are selling knives to teenagers without performing age checks.
Age checking company Serve Legal sent mystery shoppers to buy a knife in homeware or DIY stores and supermarkets.
The figures were released amid concerns about a rise in gun and knife crime. The latest data published by the Office for National Statistics showed that in the UK 39,598 offences involving a knife or sharp instrument were recorded in 2017, a 22 per cent increase compared with the previous year, and the highest number registered since comparable records started in 2010.
Firearms-related offences were also up, by 11 per cent, to 6,604 recorded crimes.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, it is illegal to sell knives to under 18s, and in Scotland young people aged 16 to 18 can buy cutlery and kitchen knives.
Last year, the British Home Office revealed plans to make it an offence to deliver a knife sold online to a private residential address. The buyer will have to collect the knife in person at a location where their age can be checked.
A number of major retailers have also entered into a voluntary agreement to make sure under-18s cannot buy knives, including checking for age identification, reminding customers that they are age restricted products and training staff.
Ed Heaver, director of Serve Legal, said: "Against a backdrop of rising knife crime, news headlines about school-age victims and perpetrators are shockingly frequent.
"Our latest retail test data reveals that despite the principles of the government's voluntary agreement on underage sales, which many retailers have agreed to adhere to, complacency on the high street could well be contributing to a deadly societal problem, with knives being sold to young people in plain sight."
The company used young looking 18 and 19-year-olds in the test purchases.