Swindon shops sold knives and axe to teenaged undercover police cadets

By Barrie Hudson - 23 May 2023

  • Knives, shears and an axe were sold to teenaged cadets

    Knives, shears and an axe were sold to teenaged cadets

There is still work to do to prevent knives and bladed items from falling into the hands of young people in Swindon.

This, Swindon Borough Council says, was the over-riding message to come out of a recent test operation during which three Swindon retailers sold bladed items to teenagers.

Trading Standards officers from the teamed up with Wiltshire Police to carry out a knife test purchasing operation as part of the Operation Sceptre national anti-knife crime campaign. 

It was designed to educate retailers about the part they can play to reduce knife crime and involved Wiltshire Police Cadets, aged between 15 and 17, entering shops and trying to buy a knife or bladed item.

Three out of eight retailers that visited failed the test purchase. A block of knives, garden shears and a small axe sold to the teenagers who took part in the operation.

Cllr Jim Grant, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Joint Working, said: “Tackling knife crime in Swindon is one of our top priorities and we are determined to do all we can, working with our partners, to keep people safe in our town.

“It is really important we carry out test purchasing operations like this because it serves as an important reminder to retailers of their responsibilities around the sale of knives.

“I am disappointed three retailers failed to comply with their legal obligations but, on a positive note, I was pleased to see that five stores complied with the law and refused to sell knives and bladed items to children.

“Clearly there is still work to be done with retailers, but our Trading Standards officers will continue to work with businesses to ensure we take a zero tolerance approach to underage knife sales.

“Retailers should be aware that it is a criminal offence to sell knives and bladed items to children and a summary conviction carries a penalty of six months imprisonment or a fine of £5,000, or both.”

Two of the shops which failed the test purchase did request a form of ID, but failed to verify the age correctly. One retailer did not challenge the test purchaser on their age despite having a Challenge 25 policy in place.

The three stores were national chains, so will be reported to their Primary Authority Trading Standards services for further investigation. 

Further test purchases will also be conducted in the future to ensure the correct procedures are being followed.

Insp David Tippetts of Wiltshire Police said: “As part of our knife crime campaign, Operation Sceptre, we are working with the public and our partners to try and reduce the number of knife-related crimes we have in Swindon. 

“Part of that work involves ensuring that young people are not able to easily pick up and buy knives from shops – hence the operation with Trading Standards using our Police Cadets. 

“Everyone in society can do their bit to help reduce knife crime in our town and this includes businesses which sell knives. 

“The operation has been very successful in terms of raising awareness of knife crime and how we can all work together – the police, the local authority and our communities - to help prevent it.”

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