Croydon Council is warning UK businesses over illegal online knife sales to children after two more companies were fined thousands.
In the two separate court cases on Tuesday, one company was fined £40,000 for selling a Stanley knife to a 13-year-old, while the other was fined £8,000 for selling a meat cleaver.
In both cases the teenager was a 13-year-old volunteer test purchaser for Croydon Council’s trading standards team, which is leading a pilot online knife sales clampdown backed by the Home Office.
Under the Criminal Justice Act 1988 as amended by the Offensive Weapons Act 1996, it is illegal to sell a knife, knife blade, razor blade or axe to anyone under 18.
At Croydon Magistrates’ Court, Cromwell Tools Limited, trading as subsidiary Zoro UK, of Chartwell Drive in Wigston, Leicestershire, and Heaton Catering Equipment Limited, of Heaton Park Road in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, were ordered to pay fines of £40,000 and £8,000 respectively after pleading guilty to separate offences of selling a knife to a child online. Both companies were also ordered to pay costs and a victim surcharge.
Croydon Council prosecuted Zoro’s parent company Cromwell Tools after the underage test purchaser bought a Stanley fixed blade utility knife from www.zoro.co.uk on 16 January 2019. During the purchase process, the volunteer test purchaser was not required to enter a date of birth or to confirm he was over 18. The £8.43 knife was delivered on 21 January.
Heaton Catering Equipment also admitted the offence of selling a knife online to a child after a council test purchase volunteer bought a Giesser meat cleaver from www.heatoncateringequipment.co.uk on 16 January 2019. The 13-year-old was able to buy the £34.37 cleaver after entering a false date of birth, false name and cover address. The cleaver was delivered on 21 January.
The court heard both companies had been sent an advance letter on 14 November 2018 warning an online test purchase was likely.
In mitigation, lawyers for both companies apologised and told the court they had taken steps to improve their procedures around online sales. Cromwell has since updated its staff training and online procedures, while Heaton is exploring a contract where age checks are carried out upon delivery and is researching additional IT checks on age-restricted products.
Sentencing Cromwell Tools to pay £40,000 plus council court costs of £1,943.40 and a £170 victim surcharge, Chair of the Bench Stuart Walker said the fine would have been £80,000 if Cromwell had not pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity and not taken substantial steps since the offence.
In the other case, magistrates fined Heaton Catering Equipment £8,000 and ordered it to pay court costs of £1,865.80 and a £170 victim surcharge.
“In Croydon we’re taking a public health approach to tackling violence. Too many businesses are potentially endangering the lives of young people because they aren’t doing enough checks to stop children getting hold of knives online.
“Our excellent trading standards team in Croydon is leading the way nationally on tackling illegal knife sales online. Their impressive enforcement record is highlighting that online businesses are much less likely to have safeguards in place compared to store-based sales.
“I urge all businesses – whether operating in store or online – to take their responsibilities seriously and play their part in protecting our young people.”
Councillor Hamida Ali, cabinet member for safer Croydon and communities
The prosecutions are the fourth and fifth such convictions under Croydon Council trading standards team’s lead role in the initiative, whose first prosecution was in June.
For more information on work done by the council’s trading standards team to combat illegal underage sales of restricted products from knives to tobacco, see the council’s trading standards web pages.