The multi agency operation ‘Lithium 1’ involved a 17 year old licensing apprentice going undercover to put shop owners to the test and see how simple it is to purchase a knife in the city.
Criminal Justice Act 1988 (as amended by the Offensive Weapons Act 1996 and the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006), states it is an offence to sell to a person under the age of 18:
- any knife, knife blade or razor blade or axe
- any other article which has a blade, or which is sharply pointed, and which is made or adapted for use for causing injury to the person
The apprentice visited a variety of premises where he was unable to purchase a knife as the shop owners carried out the correct, legal procedure - asking for proof of age.
However, one shop owner did not ask for any identification and neglected to ask the purpose for purchasing the knife.
This led to the sharp 99p knife, displayed on the shop counter, illegally sold to the underage teen.
George, apprentice at City of Wolverhampton Council said: “Most stores I visited asked for ID to prove I was 18 before I could buy the knife.
I made up different excuses each time to see if anyone would allow me to go ahead without any identification – but each person serving turned me away.
“When I walked into the final shop, it really shocked me. It was so easy to walk away with a knife in my hand.
“The knives were cheap and clearly displayed on the counter. Most young kids have a pound in their pocket and that’s all the knife cost – a pound and potentially someone’s life.”
Councillor Steve Evans, Cabinet Member for City Environment at City of Wolverhampton Council said: “The recent spate of tragic violence across the country underlines the importance of investing time in operations like this to educate shop keepers and protect young people in getting involved in knife crime.
“I’m pleased that the majority of Wolverhampton shop owners are carrying out their duties correctly, but it is still disappointing to see that not all are challenging those who look under the age of 25.
“As a Council, there is only so much we can do to put a stop to any criminal activity. It’s important we do our bit and make sure shop owners are well educated and being responsible to ensure the legal barriers are there when it comes to selling knives.
“We will continue to work with the police in these operations to support the police and shop owners to keep our residents and visitors safe.”
The shop owner, who believed the apprentice was of legal age, received an official police warning and officers enforced the importance of carrying out the correct procedure when it comes to selling knives, alcohol and cigarettes.
The Criminal Justice Act 1988 states selling knives or blades to a person under the age of 18 years, can be liable to imprisonment of up to six months and/or a fine of up to £5,000.