NI shops sell­ing knives to mi­nors

Sis­ter of Belfast mur­der victim de­mands fresh crack­down on blades af­ter sur­vey re­veals re­tail­ers here are worst in the UK for check­ing age of buy­ers

Belfast Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - BY VIC­TO­RIA LEONARD

THE sis­ter of a Belfast man who was stabbed to death has called for a crack­down in knife sales af­ter it was re­vealed that nearly four out of 10 shops tested in North­ern Ire­land sold them to teenagers with­out age checks. Mum-of-two Aine Magee (left) de­scribed the avail­abil­ity of knives to un­der-18s here as “scary”. “It’s a shock that they are still be­ing sold with­out the proper checks,” she said.

Ac­cord­ing to re­search, shops in North­ern Ire­land failed 41% of test sales of knives to teenage mys­tery shop­pers in 2017.

Aine’s brother Ea­monn Magee Jr (22), son of box­ing cham­pion Ea­monn Snr, was killed in a fren­zied knife at­tack in 2015.

THE sis­ter of mur­dered Belfast boxer Ea­monn Magee Jr has called for a crack­down on knife sales af­ter new re­search in­di­cated North­ern Ire­land was the joint worst re­gion in the UK for shops sell­ing them to teenagers with­out age checks.

Mr Magee Jr (22), a ris­ing star in the sports world and the son of box­ing cham­pion Ea­monn Magee, was stabbed to death in Twin­brook, west Belfast, in May 2015.

The en­gi­neer­ing stu­dent was mur­dered by Turk­ish national Orhan Koca (34), the es­tranged hus­band of Mr Magee Jr’s girl­friend, who in­flicted six stab wounds as the victim checked on a pizza de­liv­ery.

Last May, Koca was sen­tenced to serve a min­i­mum of 14 years in prison for his crime.

Ac­cord­ing to re­tail age check­ing com­pany Serve Le­gal, 41% of 59 test sales of knives to teenage mys­tery shop­pers in North­ern Ire­land failed in 2017.

It means that, de­spite it be­ing il­le­gal for shops to sell blades to un­der-18s here, lo­cal re­tail­ers did not re­quest age iden­ti­fi­ca­tion in more than four out of 10 cases.

By con­trast, re­tail­ers in Lon­don, which has re­cently suf­fered a num­ber of high-pro­file mur­ders in­volv­ing knives, failed in just 18% of tests.

North­ern Ire­land tied with Scot­land to have the low­est pass rate of any UK re­gion (59%) in the tests.

This was well be­low the over­all UK pass rate of 74% out of 2,357 test sales.

Across the UK, home­ware and DIY stores were the worst high­street of­fend­ers, fol­lowed by supermarkets.

Mum-of-two Aine Magee de­scribed the avail­abil­ity of knives to un­der-18s here as “scary” and said her grieving fam­ily was forced to deal with the “heart­break” of her brother’s loss ev­ery day.

“Ea­monn would have been 25 now, and we think about him ev­ery day,” she said. “May 30 will be the third an­niver­sary of his death, and we are plan­ning to go to the grave that day.

“The fam­ily had such hopes and dreams for Ea­monn’s box­ing, and he was study­ing en­gi­neer­ing at Ul­ster Univer­sity. Ev­ery day since Ea­monn died has been re­ally hard for my fam­ily. It doesn’t get any eas­ier.

“It’s heart­break­ing to watch my mum. Her heart has bro­ken ev­ery day since. My daddy has gone down­hill and my brother had to move to Australia.

“Knife crime dev­as­tates fam­i­lies and communities.

“I think re­tail­ers need to crack down on the sale of knives to the un­der-18s. It’s a shock that they are still be­ing sold with­out the proper checks.”

In 2016/17, the PSNI recorded 707 se­lected vi­o­lent and sex­ual of­fences in­volv­ing knives or sharp in­stru­ments, in­clud­ing homi­cides, at­tempted mur­der, rob­bery, griev­ous bod­ily harm and rape.

Data from the Of­fice for National Sta­tis­tics shows that in

Eng­land and Wales, 39,598 of­fences in­volv­ing a knife or sharp in­stru­ment were recorded in 2017 — a 22% in­crease com­pared with the pre­vi­ous year, and the high­est num­ber reg­is­tered since com­pa­ra­ble records started in 2010.

Aine, who has two young chil­dren aged one and five, said she feared for their safety if ac­cess to knives was not re­stricted fur­ther.

“I have two young kids to raise, and I’m scared for their safety,” she con­tin­ued.

“We don’t know what the fu­ture will hold on the streets.

“We don’t want the sit­u­a­tion here to get to what it’s like in Lon­don.

“My youngest child is named af­ter my brother, but I shouldn’t have to keep his mem­ory alive by nam­ing a child — he should be here to see his neph­ews grow up. It’s too easy to go and lift a knife. There needs to be stricter con­trols on their sale.”

Direc­tor of Serve Le­gal Ed Heaver said that “com­pla­cency on the high street could well be con­tribut­ing to a deadly so­ci­etal prob­lem, with knives be­ing sold to young peo­ple in plain sight”.

Last year, the Home Of­fice an­nounced plans to make it an of­fence to de­liver a knife sold on­line to a pri­vate res­i­den­tial ad­dress.

A num­ber of ma­jor re­tail­ers have also en­tered into a vol­un­tary agree­ment to en­sure un­der-18s can­not buy knives.

I’m scared for my kids ... we don’t want the sit­u­a­tion here to get to what it’s like in Lon­don

Stabbing victim Ea­monn Magee Jnr with his sis­ter Aine

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