One in five teens buying knives are not ID checked, tests find

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By Sanya Burgess, news reporter

One in five teenagers buying knives in shops were not asked for ID during mystery shopper tests across the UK in 2018.

More than 50% of shoppers buying age-restricted purchases online, including knives, were not asked to prove their age.

More than 4,100 teens took part in secret audits of bricks and mortar stores last year, with homeware stores faring the worst under scrutiny.

Image: Last year more than 730 homicides were recorded

A quarter (26%) of all secret shoppers were not asked for ID at homeware stores, while 15% managed to buy a knife without their age being verified at supermarkets.

Offences involving knives or sharp instruments increased by 6% in 2018 compared to the previous 12 months, with a decade-high of more than 730 homicides being recorded in England in Wales last year.

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The North West and Midlands had the lowest rate of ID checks, with 21% of shoppers not being ID'd in 2018.

They were followed by East Anglia and the North East, in joint second place with 18% not being checked.

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London was the most stringent, but still saw more than one in ten shoppers not being checked (13%).

Checks on purchases online are starkly worse compared to the high street.

Half (51%) of the 4,395 young mystery shoppers received age-restricted goods, including knives, they ordered online without being asked for proof of age.

More than 50% of purchases online were not age checked
Image: More than 50% of purchases online were not age checked. File pic

Ed Heaver, director of Serve Legal, the leading provider of compliance auditing services who published the results, told Sky News the 'gold standard' retailers should aim for is ID checks being carrier out on 90% or more of customers, allowing for some human error.

The shoppers used by Serve Legal are "young looking 18 and 19-year-olds", he said.

Although the numbers of shoppers not being checked remains high, the most recent figures are an improvement on previous years.

In 2018, 18% of mystery knife buyers were not asked to show ID. This is compared to 25% in 2017 and 43% five years ago.

Homeware stores improved their pass rates from 59% in 2017 to 74% in 2018.

Mr Heaver said: "Bricks and mortar retailers really upped their game over the last 18 months… They can do more and improve further but they are getting closer to [age checks for] alcohol levels… in the upper 80s%".

Mr Heaver said: "[Stores] should get recognition for focusing on this area… but the danger is if they get complacent and shift focus."

He added that carrying ID is now "a part of young people's lives" as "it is not as though [checks] are a recent thing."

Teens are used to carrying ID, Mr Heaver told Sky News
Image: Teens are used to carrying ID, Mr Heaver told Sky News. File pic

The Home Office told Sky News: "We are making it harder than ever for young people to purchase knives, including online.

"As part of the serious violence strategy we are supporting trading standards through our prosecution fund to help them to prosecute retailers who sell knives to under 18s and the fund has already supported enforcement activity in more than 1,100 cases.

"The Offensive Weapons Act, which received royal assent on 16 May, will ban knives being sent to residential addresses after they are bought online, unless the seller has an arrangement to verify age at the point of delivery."

In England and Wales, it is illegal to sell a knife, blade or axe to a person under the ageRead More – Source

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