A WARNING has been issued to retailers after more than half sold knives to a 16-year-old in test purchases by North Yorkshire Trading Standards.

Legally, people must be over 18 to buy a knife, but on six out of ten occasions in North Yorkshire, a 16-year-old volunteer was able to buy a knife from branches of major retailers.

The test purchases by the County Council’s Trading Standards service were in support of North Yorkshire Police’s Knife Crime Awareness Week activity.

Volunteer children who help Trading Standards with test purchases follow strict rules, including telling the truth at all times and providing identification showing their true age, if asked.

County Councillor Andrew Lee, executive member for Trading Standards, said: “It is a crime to sell age-restricted products, such as knives, to minors, so all retailers must ensure that their staff members have the training and confidence to refuse illegal sales to minors.

“While reports of underage knife sales have not been an issue in North Yorkshire, the results of these test purchases do raise concerns, particularly against the backdrop of instances of knife crime elsewhere in the country.

"Retailers have an important role to play in ensuring our young people cannot buy potentially dangerous products, so we want to see retailers complying with their legal and social obligations.”

Detective Superintendent Steve Thomas, the operational lead for knife crime in North Yorkshire Police, said: “All it takes is for one knife to fall in the wrong hands to have a devastating impact on many lives – not just the victim but their friends, family, community and the perpetrator as well.

“Whilst this week’s results show that more work is needed to ensure that all shops are following the law over knife sales, I would like to say well done to those stores who were prepared to challenge a youngster trying to buy knives.

"Their intervention could save a life."

The shops involved in the test sample were not subject to any previous complaints, so no prosecutions will be made.

However, the retailers have received verbal and written advice and further test purchases will be carried out to check that improvements have been implemented.