New draft sentencing guidelines published for the offence of sale of knives to under 18s

Draft sentencing guidelines for sentencing retailers including large organisations and individual shop owners convicted of selling knives to children in England and Wales were published for consultation today by the Sentencing Council.

There are two guidelines – one for sentencing organisations and one for sentencing individuals – which will apply to offenders who fail to ensure that adequate safeguards are in place to prevent the sale of knives to under 18s either in store or online.

The proposed guideline for individuals provides for a range of non-custodial sentences, from discharge to high-level community order. The guideline for organisations provides for a range of fines from £500 to £1 million, with fines linked to turnover to make penalties proportionate to the size of organisation (organisations cannot be sentenced to custody or community orders).  

The guidelines will ensure the courts take a consistent approach to sentencing this offence. The Council does not expect sentences to change overall for most offenders but, for large organisations, sentences may be higher under the proposed guidelines. The consultation will run from 1 June 2022 to 24 August 2022.

Sentencing Council magistrate member, Jo King JP, said: “Selling knives to children can lead to very serious consequences. There is the risk of serious physical harm to the children who buy these knives and to other people as well as the risk of wider social harms associated with the circulation of weapons among children. A child purchasing a knife is also at risk of prosecution for possession of the knife.  

“It is important that all possible safeguards should be put in place to prevent the sale of knives to children, and that the penalties for organisations are substantial enough to bring home to both management and shareholders the need to operate within the law.” 

There are currently no sentencing guidelines for this offence, which is prosecuted by Trading Standards and is dealt with in magistrates’ courts. 

 Paul Noone, acting chair National Trading Standards, said:  “Given the devastation youth knife crime causes, Trading Standards has campaigned hard for consistent rules to be applied in sentencing those who sell knives to children. We strongly support this move by the Sentencing Council to seek to achieve this important outcome.”