Test purchasing investigations carried out by London Trading Standards (LTS) have revealed that some stores in the capital are selling restricted items, such as knives, tobacco and alcohol, to children as young as 13.

The partnership is working with the Metropolitan Police to raise awareness of illegal sales and ensure that legitimate businesses can thrive in London.

Durting the past 18 months, 26 local authorities in London have conducted a total of 2,593 test purchases for knives, alcohol and tobacco, using child volunteers aged between 12 and 17.

The LTS investigations found that the majority of stores refused to sell to underage customers but the authority recorded a total of 285 illegal sales, with 14% of stores selling knives and 12% selling alcohol to those underage.

Commenting on the findings, Detective Superintendent Sean Yates from the Metropolitan Police, said: “Knife crime devastates families and communities, and selling knives to children is both illegal and unacceptable.

“Tackling knife and gang crime is one of the Met’s top priorities, and we are working closely with Trading Standards, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) and retailers to do everything we can to prevent young people getting hold of knives in the first place. We are also targeting those who carry weapons and cracking down on online videos that glamorise and encourage this terrible violence.”

Sophie Linden, Deputy Mayor for policing and crime, added: “Knives have no place on the streets of London and we are doing everything we can, together with the Met, retailers and Trading Standards, to crack down on rogue traders selling them illegally. That includes pushing the courts to review sentences given to retailers who fail to comply with the law and this approach forms part of the Mayor’s overall strategy to bear down on knife crime.

“We are clear that knife crime destroys communities and the only way we are going to rid our streets of these dangerous weapons is by working together to stop them getting into the hands of young Londoners and to strongly challenge the attitude that it’s acceptable and safe to carry a knife. It’s not.” 

LTS is working with detection dog specialists, Wagtail, to provide tobacco education to retailers and demonstrate how dogs can be used to detect illegal tobacco.

Collin Singer, managing director at Wagtail UK Ltd, said: “Our Wagtail Tobacco Control Education Unit is an ideal platform for our Trading Standards partners to portray the message about the dangers of illegal tobacco and other consumer protection issues. It helps to demonstrate the capabilities of our detection dogs and their ability to detect illegal tobacco, often in cleverly constructed concealments. Our unit is also an excellent forum for intelligence gathering and engagement with the local community.”