Sale of knives etc to persons under 18

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Closes 24 Aug 2022



In 2020 the Council received a submission on behalf of the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham regarding the need for a sentencing guideline for the offence of selling knives to persons under the age of 18. The submission argued that sentences being passed for larger organisations did not adequately reflect the seriousness of the offence and the means of the organisation. The Council agreed to add this to the list of future guidelines to be developed when resources were available.

The Council considered whether to extend the scope of the project to include other offences relating to providing goods and services which are subject to age restrictions. The volumes of cases sentenced for all age restricted sale offences are low. In the five year period 2016 to 2020 only offences relating to the sale of alcohol, the sale of knives and the sale of tobacco products resulted in more than 10 offenders sentenced in any year.

There is already a Sentencing Council guideline which covers the offence of selling alcohol to children and the Council concluded that, given the particular concern regarding the sale of knives to children, guidelines for this offence should be prioritised.

This offence is prosecuted by Trading Standards departments within local authorities and almost all prosecutions are as a result of test purchases. This means that the volume of prosecutions is very closely linked to the resources that Trading Standards departments are able to devote to this aspect of their work. The Council has drawn on the expertise of the National Trading Standards and the Association of Chief Trading Standards Officers (ACTSO) in developing the guidelines.

The offence of selling knives etc to persons under the age of 18 is a summary only offence; it carries a maximum of six months’ imprisonment (or, in the case of an organisation, an unlimited fine) and can only be dealt with in magistrates’ courts. It is a strict liability offence (there is no requirement to show intention or knowledge) subject to a defence of proving that all reasonable precautions were taken and all due diligence was exercised to avoid the offence.

The legislation states:

Criminal Justice Act 1988 141A.— Sale of knives and certain articles with blade or point to persons under eighteen.

(1)   Any person who sells to a person under the age of eighteen years an article to which this section applies shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or both.

(2)  Subject to subsection (3) below, this section applies to—

(a)  any knife, knife blade or razor blade,

(b)  any axe, and

(c)  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.

(3)  This section does not apply to any article described in—

(a)  section 1 of the Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959.

(b)  an order made under section 141(2) of this Act, or

(c)  an order made by the Secretary of State under this section.

(4)  It shall be a defence for a person charged with an offence under subsection (1) above to prove that he took all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence to avoid the commission of the offence.

(5)  The power to make an order under this section shall be exercisable by statutory instrument which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

In the following sections the proposed guidelines are outlined in detail and you will be asked to give your views. You can give your views by answering some or all of the questions.

1. What is your name?
2. What is your email address?
If you enter your email address then you will automatically receive an acknowledgement email when you submit your response.
3. What is your organisation?