Shopkeepers caught selling knives to underage youths

PUBLISHED: 12:18 05 September 2008 | UPDATED: 15:22 07 September 2010

Nearly half of all shops tested in a police sting in Westminster sold a knife to an underage person, shock new figures have revealed. Despite London s spiralling toll of teen deaths from stabbings, 24 stores out of around 50 in Paddington, Pimlico, Soho

Nearly half of all shops tested in a police sting in Westminster sold a knife to an underage person, shock new figures have revealed.

Despite London's spiralling toll of teen deaths from stabbings, 24 stores out of around 50 in Paddington, Pimlico, Soho and Mayfair failed test purchases by youths acting on behalf of the authorities.

In August alone, seven out of 10 shops failed to ask for any proof of age and freely sold knives to under-18s.

They now face being hauled before the courts where they will face a maximum of six months in jail and a £5,000 fine.

"This is hugely disappointing," said Westminster's community protection boss, Cllr Daniel Astaire.

It's astonishing that with so many tragic incidents of knife crime across the country, shop workers are still failing to think about the possible consequences of their actions.

"We are now considering prosecuting several of these premises and we hope this will act as a serious wake-up call to all those concerned.

"There is no excuse for failing in the simple task of asking someone for ID if they look young and we will not tolerate ignorance or indifference of this issue."

Shops targeted in the undercover operation included hardware, discount, cookware and department stores.

They sold kitchen and craft knives to young people.

London has seen a dramatic rise in teen stabbings this year. The most high profile case in Westminster was the killing of Amro Elbadawi, 14, who died in March after being stabbed in the neck near his home in Queen's Park.

A neighbour of the Elbadawi family, who does not want to be named for fear of reprisals, has called for any shop allowing young people to buy knives to be closed down.

She said: "Boys go and buy knives and pretend they're for their mothers but use them for fighting.

"I'm still very upset about Am-ro and I'm so scared for my own children that I've sent them to live with their father in Turkey. I cry for them every night but I'd rather they be in Istanbul than here."

Legislation introduced in 1988 made it an offence to sell a knife or blade to a person below the age of 18.

Westminster head of trading standards, Sue Jones, said that the council is now distributing advice and putting up posters to make businesses aware of their responsibilities.

She added: "We will prosecute traders who ignore this advice.

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