‘Extend prosecutions fund for underage knife sales’

It said 41 per cent of UK-based online knife retailers made illegal sales to under-18s in a test purchase operation, while shop staff are selling knives to children as young as 14.

The LGA has warned that the dedicated Home Office Prosecutions Fund – part of the Serious Violence Strategy – will not give enough help to trading standards teams to enforce breaches of knife sales in the longer term.

Councils’ trading standards teams are also concerned they do not have the necessary resources to enforce new responsibilities under the Offensive Weapons Bill, aimed at tackling a surge in violent crime by targeting acid and knife sales. The bill is set to become law later this year.

With trading standards budgets and staffing having been cut by around half since 2010, as a result of cuts to council funding, the LGA is calling for more cash to be allocated to the Prosecutions Fund to support enforcement activity in 2019/20 and for the fund to be extended beyond 2020 as part of the 2019 Spending Review.

The Government also needs to fund the extra enforcement activity needed in light of the Offensive Weapons Bill coming into force.

Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “The Prosecutions Fund announced in the Serious Violence Strategy has helped some councils prosecute retailers for blatant breaches of knife sale laws.

“However, given the knife crime epidemic, the significant cuts to trading standards budgets and the extra enforcement activity that will be needed when the Offensive Weapons Bill becomes law, this fund needs urgent further investment and extending to many more councils to tackle illegal knife sales and protect people from harm.”

Meanwhile, a report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime claims areas suffering the largest cuts to spending on young people have seen bigger increases in knife crime. Council-run youth services have seen funding more than halved in real terms since 2010.

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