NI shops must take knife laws se­ri­ously

Belfast Telegraph - - VIEWPOINT -

Given the pub­lic­ity sur­round­ing knife crime in other parts of the UK, it is as­ton­ish­ing that re­tail­ers in North­ern Ire­land have such a lais­sez-faire at­ti­tude to leg­is­la­tion ban­ning sales of such weapons to un­der-18s.

A sur­vey found that in roughly four out of ten cases pur­chasers of knifes were not asked their name, even though that is the law and a fail­ure to do so can re­sult in a fine and up to six months’ jail.

North­ern Ire­land shares the worst record in ob­serv­ing the law with Scot­land.

In Lon­don, where there have been at least 36 fa­tal stab­bings since the be­gin­ning of this year, re­tail­ers failed only 18% of test pur­chases.

It can be ar­gued that the level of knife crime here is much lower than in other parts of the UK, yet in 2016/17 the PSNI recorded 707 vi­o­lent and sex­ual of­fences crimes where knives or other bladed in­stru­ments were used.

That shows there is no need for com­pla­cency, es­pe­cially since the types of crime recorded in­cluded mur­der, at­tempted mur­der and rape.

Some peo­ple might say that knives are ubiq­ui­tous, since ev­ery house­hold has draw­ers full of them. But cut­lery-style knives are not weapons of choice for those who would use them in a pre­med­i­tated fash­ion. In­stead, they tend to seek out more deadly ver­sions.

It is wor­ry­ing that home­ware, DIY stores and supermarkets were all found to be in breach of the law, and this sur­vey should cer­tainly serve as a wake-up call to the au­thor­i­ties.

Leg­is­la­tion is only as ef­fec­tive as its en­force­ment, and it seems ev­i­dent that many re­tail­ers do not fear be­ing found out for sell­ing to un­der-age cus­tomers.

Of course, it is not just teenagers who are guilty of knife crime, but pre­ven­tion has to start some­where, and with the laws on the statute book it is im­per­a­tive that it is en­forced rigidly. Per­haps if some re­tail­ers found them­selves re­ceiv­ing fines and/or terms of im­pris­on­ment that would send out a mes­sage to the high street that the au­thor­i­ties are se­ri­ous about en­sur­ing the law is obeyed.

In the past the great­est worry in North­ern Ire­land was be­ing con­fronted by some­one car­ry­ing a gun, and while arms are still avail­able, knives are now a more com­mon­place weapon and equally deadly.

There have been sev­eral high-pro­file knife killings in the province in re­cent years, and the ef­fect on the fam­i­lies in­volved should har­den the re­solve of ev­ery­one to take knife crime se­ri­ously.

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