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Proposals for new sentencing guidelines for underage sale of knives published

The Sentencing Council has published two draft sentencing guidelines (external link) for sentencing retailers convicted of selling knives to children in England and Wales for consultation.

The two guidelines – one for sentencing organisations and one for sentencing individuals –will apply to retailers 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 Council is seeking views on the draft guidelines from judges, magistrates and others with an interest in this area. Currently, there are no guidelines for this offence.

The two guidelines cover just one offence of selling knives etc to persons under the age of 18 contrary to s.141A of the Criminal Justice Act 1988; it carries a maximum of six months’ imprisonment (or, in the case of an organisation, an unlimited fine) and can only be dealt with in magistrates’ courts. The offence is prosecuted by Trading Standards departments within local authorities.

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.

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