Underage Sale of Knives | New Sentencing Guidelines
In recognition of the continuing increase in offences involving the use of knives, the Government has published, via the Sentencing Council, two new Sentencing Guidelines (‘the New Guidelines’); one for sentencing organisations and one for sentencing individuals.
The New Guidelines cover one offence of selling knives etc to persons under the age of 18 contrary to s.141A of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 and are designed to ensure adequate safeguarding to prevent the sale of knives both online and in retail stores.
They do not apply to offences of a more serious nature such as those involving large quantities of knives or the deliberate or reckless marketing of knives to children.
The New Guidelines took effect from 1 April 2023.
Suki Randhawa, one of Kangs Senior Solicitors, outlines below this new framework as it relates to organisations.
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The New Sentencing Framework for Sales by Organisations
The offence will be summary only, triable before a Magistrates’ Court, where the maximum penalty will be an unlimited fine.
Factors which the courts will consider include Culpability and Harm.
Culpability falls into three categories:
Category A: High culpability
This category caters for offenders:
- failing to put in place appropriate measures to prevent underage sales,
- failing to act on concerns raised by employees or others,
- falsifying of documents,
- failing to make appropriate changes following advice and/or prior incidents.
Category B: Medium culpability
This will be applicable where:
- systems were in place but not sufficiently adhered to or implemented,
- other cases where culpability falls between the factors as described in A and C.
Category C: Lesser culpability
- Offender makes significant efforts to prevent underage sales where not amounting to a defence.
The harm caused by the offence relates to the risks, both to themselves and to others, as well as the wider community, associated with children and young people being in the possession of knives.
There is just one level of harm, as the same level of harm is risked by any such sale to a person aged under 18.
Sentencing Starting Points
Having determined the category of the offence, the court will then have to consider the Starting Point for determining the level of fine which, inter alia, applies to all offenders irrespective of any plea or previous convictions.
Organisations are categorised as being ‘Large’, ‘Medium’, ‘Small’ and ‘Micro’, according to turnover, as shown below, or equivalent.
The range of fines which can be imposed is enormous.
For example, the Starting Point for fine levels for an offence deemed to be of Culpability A varies as follows:
- Large organisation: turnover £50 million plus – starting point £400,000.
- Medium organisation: turnover between £10 and £50 million – starting point £200,000.
- Small organisation: turnover between £2 and £10 million – starting point £50,000.
- Micro organisation: turnover of not more than £2 million – starting point £12,500.
Adjustment of Fine
Once it has decided upon a fine level, the court will consider other factors which may justify adjustment outside the category range to ensure that it achieves:
- the removal of all gain
- appropriate punishment
Lord Michael Bichard, Chair of National Trading Standards, said:
‘Knife crime causes devastation in local communities and blights many young lives. Consistent sentencing rules are important when action is taken against those who sell knives to children. Trading Standards strongly support this move by the Sentencing Council to seek to achieve this important outcome.’
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