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Woolworths slammed over knife sale

PUBLISHED: 17:33 25 June 2008 | UPDATED: 10:06 11 August 2010

The knives bought from Woolworths

The knives bought from Woolworths

PARENTS have slammed high-street giants Woolworths after two branches in the borough were caught selling razor-sharp knives to a 14-year-old. The sales, which took place in the Barking store in High Street, Barking, and Dagenham store in Heathway, Dagenha

PARENTS have slammed high-street giants Woolworths after two branches in the borough were caught selling razor-sharp knives to a 14-year-old.

The sales, which took place in the Barking store in High Street, Barking, and Dagenham store in Heathway, Dagenham, happened just an hour-and-a-half apart.

Thoughtless staff didn't realise the transaction was an undercover operation by Trading Standards who captured both sales on film.

"It's a blatant breach of the law," said David Woods, Barking and Dagenham Council's director of customer services, "and I'm pretty appalled that the sale was able to take place not once but twice in the same chain on the same day."

Trading Standards recruited a 14-year-old volunteer for the operation earlier this month and equipped him with a hidden camera. Both stores sold the young teenager the potentially lethal weapons without any protest despite the law forbidding the sale of knives to anyone under the age of 18.

The secret footage has since been placed on the council's website and has left many parents disturbed.

Alice Mayer, who lives in Barking, said: "I have seen the video and its disgusting that the child was able to buy a knife so easily."

John Singleton, 44, a father of three, added: "It's not right. And if they have sold a weapon to a 14-year-old they should be punished, it's as simple as that."

The secretly-filmed footage from both shops clearly shows the volunteer heading for the kitchenware aisle and selecting a knife from the display.

He then walks up to the till, with nothing more in his hand than his chosen knife, and makes the purchase with no questions asked.

Residents can view the footage on the council's website at:

www.lbbd.gov.uk/2-news-events/media-resource/video/underage-knife-video.html

Barking and Dagenham Council is now studying the evidence to decide what enforcement action to take against the stores. The offence, upon conviction, carries a fine of up to £5,000 and a custodial sentence of up to six months.

Mr Woods added: "Thanks to undercover operations like this, which we run regularly in conjunction with the police, we don't have a particular knife problem in Barking and Dagenham.

"Even so, I don't expect a child to be able to go into a national chain store and buy knives four years before they should be able to."

A spokesperson from Woolworths said: "Woolworths plc is a responsible retailer. Under-age sales are a very rare occurrence in our stores.

"We have robust systems in place which include regular staff training and a till prompt system that questions a customer's age and reminds colleagues to ask for identification if necessary.

"We are aware of the incidents in Dagenham and Barking and have conducted thorough investigations as a result. The stores are reinforcing our policy on age-restricted sales to all staff.


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