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Islington operation to tackle under-18 knife sales after brutal youth killings

PUBLISHED: 08:00 05 November 2015 | UPDATED: 13:10 05 November 2015

The tough new measures on underage knife sales follow the killings of Alan Cartwright (right) and Stefan Appleton (left) in Islington earlier this year

The tough new measures on underage knife sales follow the killings of Alan Cartwright (right) and Stefan Appleton (left) in Islington earlier this year

Archant

Trading standards officers are ramping up action to target shopkeepers who sell knives to under-18s in Islington following the brutal murder of two teenagers this year.

Jacob is briefed by Islington trading standards officer Doug Love before the secret shopper operationJacob is briefed by Islington trading standards officer Doug Love before the secret shopper operation

The Gazette joined a secret shopper operation this week to see first-hand the council’s work to monitor pound shops and discount stores that sell kitchen knives, craft knives and razor blades.

Retailers were sent a letter in July warning ‘don’t contribute to knife crime’ challenging owners to stop selling knives or to keep them in locked cabinets behind the counter.

It comes as Islington Council continues to prioritise tackling youth crime following the shocking murders of 15-year-old Alan Cartwright in February and 18-year-old Stefan Appleton in June this year.

Stefan’s family has this week supported the iniative to put knves under lock and key.

Test buyer Jacob Mosha outside Poundland in Seven Sisters Road, Islington, where he was unable to buy kitchen knivesTest buyer Jacob Mosha outside Poundland in Seven Sisters Road, Islington, where he was unable to buy kitchen knives

Trading standards officer Doug Love said: “It is important because these knives may be used in crime. I think everyone accepts that some knives used in crimes probably are not bought from shops, but sometimes they will be.”

None of the shops visited during the undercover operation last Thursday sold knives to the 17-year-old volunteer.

In fact one store manager at Poundland in Seven Sisters Road was described as “totally on the ball” by trading standards officers after he whipped the packet of knives out of the volunteer’s hands and politely asked him to leave the shop.

Illegal knife sales remain high

A shopkeeper at City Supermarket in Finsbury was convicted for selling a knife to a teenager that was used minutes later in a stabbingA shopkeeper at City Supermarket in Finsbury was convicted for selling a knife to a teenager that was used minutes later in a stabbing

But despite work to train retailers to spot under-18s, the sale rate to underage volunteers during test purchases in Islington is still one in four.

“Knife sales to under 18s are disappointing high at the moment and it’s difficult getting that down and part of the reason is knives are typically sold by discount stores,” said Mr Love. “They don’t usually sell alcohol or tobacco, so they are not regularly challenging age so it’s harder for the person serving to remember.”

The letter to shopkeepers, jointly signed by the borough commander of Islington Police, highlighted the case of a shopkeeper at City Supermarket in Goswell Road convicted of selling knives to a 17-year-old which were used minutes later to stab someone seven times.

“Even had the knives been stolen from the shop, rather than sold, the business would have enabled the attack by leaving the knives freely accessible and out of sight of the counter,” the letter said.

Victor Sylvester, cousin of murdered teenager Stefan Appleton, has supported the trading standards initiativeVictor Sylvester, cousin of murdered teenager Stefan Appleton, has supported the trading standards initiative

“Retailers must understand if they sell knives, they should do so legally and take every reasonable precaution to prevent unlawful sales or thefts.”

Voluntary agreements

Shopkeepers have been asked to sign voluntary “Undertaking” agreements to stop selling knives or remove them from open display cabinets.

There are about 50 known knife retailers in Islington and trading standards would like to see knives removed from shelves across the borough.

Cllr Paul Convery, executive member for community safety, said: “Islington trading standards are concentrating a great deal of effort on minimising knife sales.

“They are very much in the frontline in our fight against knife crime, which remains a key priority for the council.”

Backing the work, Victor Sylvester, 57, cousin of Stefan Appleton, said: “I think it’s a good move but at the same time it’s about education. It’s got to start at school from a young age. Be aware that you’re going to see knives all the time, in your kitchens, in your homes, but out on the street don’t carry them, in the wrong hands they’re a weapon.”

* Should all knives be taken off shop shelves in Islington and stored in locked cabinets or behind the counter? Email your views to gazette.letters@archant.co.uk or tweet us @islingtongztte

* See next week’s Gazette for the second in our exclusive series on trading standards focusing on illicit tobacco


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