Law on sale of knives to young people to be tightened

Tighter new restrictions will make it harder for young people to buy dangerous knives and corrosive products as part of the Government’s continued efforts to tackle youth violence under its Beating Crime Plan.

Jan 18, 2022
By Paul Jacques

The new measures, which are being lined up to come into force this April, will tighten up age verification both at the point of sale and delivery, introducing specific requirements on the labelling of packages containing knives and corrosive products to prevent them from being handed over to someone under the age of 18 on delivery.

The new restrictions will also make it an offence to possess a corrosive substance in a public place.

Minister for Crime and Policing, Kit Malthouse, said: “Too many lives have already been lost to youth violence and it horrifies me that young people carry or use such dangerous weapons like knives and acids.

“We all have a moral duty to do everything we can to stop the illegal possession of such weapons and these measures will be vital to stop them getting into the hands of the young people of Britain.

“Knife crime has fallen since 2019, but we are determined to eradicate this entirely. These new measures will help to stop them getting onto our streets, and we are already investing significantly in early intervention programmes which divert young people away from crime and into education and jobs.”

Ministers say the draft statutory guidance is being published today (January 18) in advance of bringing the remaining measures in the Offensive Weapons Act 2019 into force to give retailers, delivery companies, the police and others the time they need to prepare.

More than 16,000 weapons were taken off the streets last year thanks to police use of stop and search. The provisions already in place under the Offensive Weapons Act have banned a wide range of knives, weapons, and firearms, with the surrender scheme also seeing almost 15,000 knives and offensive weapons seized.

The new measures coming in April are:

  • Banning the sale and delivery of corrosive products to under-18s and delivery to residential premises;
  • Making it an offence to possess a corrosive substance in a public place;
  • Strengthening the law on the sale and delivery of knives to under-18s and delivery to residential premises;
  • Banning the possession of offensive weapons on further education premises;
  • Strengthening the law on threatening with offensive weapons; and
  • Enforcement powers for Trading Standards relating to the sales of knives, corrosive products and offensive weapons.

Graham Wynn, assistant director for consumer, competition and regulatory affairs at the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said: “The BRC has worked closely with Home Office officials during the development of the proposals for the online sale of knives.

“Members take their obligations not to sell to under-age customers very seriously. They will be looking to implement the requirements efficiently and effectively and to ensure consumers understand the new rules.”

Some measures in the Offensive Weapons Act are already in force. These are:

  • An updated definition of flick knives;
  • Banning the possession of certain knives such as flick knives and gravity knives;
  • Banning the possession of offensive weapons in private places;
  • Banning the possession of rapid firing rifles and bumpstocks; and
  • New provisions relating to Knife Crime Prevention Orders which are now being piloted in London.

The latest police recorded crime figures, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in November for the year ending June 2021, show there were 46,937 offences involving knives or sharp instruments recorded by the police, an eight per cent fall  compared with the previous year.

And ONS figures for the year ending March 2021 show the police recorded 557 violence against the person and robbery offences involving corrosive substances.

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