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Rogue traders to be prosecuted in underage knife sale crackdown

Retailers across Tower Hamlets have been warned they face prosecution if they’re caught selling knives to young people.
As concern about knife crime in the capital increases, the council is redoubling its efforts to tackle illicit sales.
While the vast majority of businesses are responsible traders, there are a minority that are willing to ignore the law with potentially disastrous consequences.

In the past, those rogue traders might have escaped with a warning letter or a caution as recommended by Home Office guidance.

But now, as part of a zero tolerance council crackdown, they face the prospect of a criminal prosecution.

On Tuesday, Mayor John Biggs met with officers from the council’s Environmental Health and Trading Standards team to hear more about the tactics they are using.

He observed a briefing ahead of a test purchasing operation in which two 15-year-old girls were sent into shops with the aim of attempting to purchase knives.

The pair visited five shops, one of which unlawfully sold them a knife.

Test purchasers have now visited 74 shops since January 2018. Knives have been unlawfully sold on seven separate occasions.

The owner of one of those businesses caught selling to an underage customer will appear before magistrates next month where he faces the prospect of an unlimited fine and/or up to six months in prison. Another three retailers are set to be summonsed to court in the coming months.

John Biggs, Executive Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said:

“Too often in London we have seen families and communities torn apart by the horrific consequences of knife crime.

“We are working hard with our partners in the police and in our schools to encourage young people not to carry knives, but it is also important that we work to stop them getting into the wrong hands through our shops.

“I was impressed by the commitment of our trading standards officers and the young volunteers who are essential to making these operations a success.

“It is right that we have put in place a zero tolerance policy to make sure that traders who break the law will now face prosecution.”

Cllr Asma Begum, Deputy Mayor for Community Safety and Equalities, said:

“We know that tackling crime is the number one priority for our residents and we are determined to do whatever is necessary to make Tower Hamlets a safer place to live, work and visit.

“We are investing £3 million to secure 39 additional police officers over the next three years. Our enforcement officers are deployed across the borough tackling anti-social behaviour and Operation Continuum, our joint counter-drugs initiative with the Metropolitan Police, has seen dozens of dealers arrested and charged.

“The work of our dedicated Trading Standards teams is another example of how we are taking action to keep our residents safe.”