Catering suppliers have been issued with a stark reminder over illegal online knife sales to children after one firm was taken to court and fined £8,000 following an investigation by Croydon Council.
Heaton Catering Equipment in Newcastle-upon-Tyne was ordered to pay the sum after pleading guilty to selling a meat cleaver to a child online. It was also ordered to pay costs and a victim surcharge.
A tool company, meanwhile, was hit with a £40,000 fine for selling a Stanley knife to a child.
In both cases the teenager was a 13-year-old volunteer test purchaser for Croydon Council’s trading standards team, which is leading a pilot online knife sales clampdown backed by the Home Office.
Under the Criminal Justice Act 1988 as amended by the Offensive Weapons Act 1996, it is illegal to sell a knife, knife blade, razor blade or axe to anyone under 18.
The test purchaser bought the Giesser meat cleaver from Heaton’s website in January after entering a false date of birth, false name and cover address. It was delivered five days later.
The court heard that Heaton had been sent an advance letter on 14 November 2018 warning an online test purchase was likely.
Heaton has apologised for the offence and told the court it has taken steps to improve its procedures around online sales. It is exploring a contract where age checks are carried out upon delivery and is researching additional IT checks on age-restricted products.
Magistrates fined Heaton Catering Equipment £8,000 and ordered it to pay court costs of £1,865.80 and a £170 victim surcharge.
Heaton’s director of operations, Gary Henry, told FEJ’s sister publication Catering Insight that the company remains entirely supportive of law enforcement agencies and was proactively working to bolster its online systems and age-verification processes.
Croydon Council has now secured five convictions against businesses for illegal knife sales since June last year.
It said the enforcement record is highlighting that online businesses are much less likely to have safeguards in place compared to store-based sales.