Owners of convenience stores will do well to learn from the downfall of the Swan Pharmacy in South Croydon, London, which has just been fined £8,000 with £2,304 costs for selling a packet of five Wilkinson Sword razor blades to a boy who admitted he was only 15 years of age.

The boy was a test purchasing volunteer for Croydon Council, and the transaction was witnessed by a member of the authority’s trading standards team. The sale breached the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (offensive weapons) as amended by the Offensive Weapons Act 1996.

Servicare Limited, the owner of the Pharmacy, recently pleaded guilty to the offence at a hearing in Croydon Magistrates’ Court. The court heard that the sales assistant thought that the minimum age requirement was 16 years, yet although knowing the purchaser was 15, the Pharmacy went ahead with the transaction.

The sale of knives, knife blades, razor blades, and axes, is restricted to customers aged over 18 years.

The only exception made for age is if the purchase is for razor blades permanently enclosed in a cartridge or housing where less than two millimetres of any blade is exposed, for example, disposable razors or replacement razor cartridge heads.

The Swan Pharmacy had received several warnings about the need to know the law on the sale of knives, razors and blades. As long ago as October 2016, trading standards officers had invited the Pharmacy to attend one of its free training sessions; but no one attended, despite employing a staff of 16 people.

In September 2017, the company signed a ‘responsible retailer agreement’ on knife and razor sales with trading standards and police officers, and then in April this year, just before the sales incident, it was warned that test purchasing sessions would be taking place in the area.

The law holds that both the sales person and the business owner can be held liable for any illegal sales. The only defence is for the accused to show that everything reasonable was done to prevent the sale.

On conviction in a Magistrates’ Court, a fine of up to £5,000, or imprisonment up to six months, can be imposed.

Convenience stores that have any concerns about their knowledge of the law, should contact their local trading standards department for more information and details of any training courses they are offering.