Knives, bladed items & hazardous materials

12th November 2021 Business Crime

Our trading standards team, headed by Derek Millard-Smith, discusses below the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), guidance on knives, bladed items & hazardous materials.

The CTSI, on behalf of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), is releasing new business guidance on knives, bladed items & hazardous materials. The guidance is aimed at helping businesses who supply bladed articles, acids, corrosive substances, explosives precursors and poisons in identifying & complying with their legal obligations. The CTSI hopes to promote consistent measures across the business community to guard against misuse and protect communities.

While CTSI guidance is not legally binding it should be treated as a best practice model. In the event of an inappropriate sale, by following the CTSI model, you evidence compliance with best practice and demonstrate you have the relevant safeguards and procedures in place.

This article deals with the regulations in two parts. Part 1- Acids & Corrosive substances and Part 2- Knives & Bladed Items.

Part 1- Acids & Corrosive substances

Following a dramatic increase in violent crime and acid attacks in 2017/18 the government passed the Offensive Weapons Act 2019 (OWA 2019). OWA 2019 made it a criminal offence to sell corrosive products to a person under 18 and to deliver (or arrange delivery) of a corrosive product, to a residential premises or locker.

Acids & corrosive substances are classified into 3 control categories: Restricted Products, Regulated Products and Reportable Products. Products can fall into one, two or all three of the categories. The table below details considerations for businesses dealing with substances in these control categories

  1. Restricted Products


    Age Restriction- illegal to sell to anyone under 18.

    Restrictions on location of delivery (i.e. not to residential address of locker)

  2. Regulated Products


    Poisons- only a registered pharmacist or someone under the supervision of a registered pharmacist can sell.

    Purchaser must hold a valid Home Office EPP Licence* for purchases above specified concentration limit- seller must record details of the transaction on the back of the licence.

  3. Reportable Products

    Report significant losses, thefts or suspicious transactions to the national contact point.

* Business-to-business transactions are outside of the EPP licensing requirements; however checks should be carried out to ensure it is a genuine business-to-business transaction.

There are a number of steps business can employ to ensure legal compliance and responsible selling, for example:

  • Identify and maintain a log of all reportable products i.e. a product in which a listed chemical is present on its own or the main ingredient present in a simple mixture, typically with less than five ingredients;
  • Draft and distribute an internal policy on selling acids & corrosive substances i.e. who can sell, procedure for checking customers ID against valid Home Office EPP;
  • Consider storage requirements to ensure products can be secured and monitored easily by staff; and
  • Implementing Staff Training on suspicious transactions and refusing sale.

Non-compliance with the legislation is considered a criminal offence. The table below summarises the possible penalties, companies and individuals might face:

Penalties

Supplying or selling a regulated substance above the concentration thresholds to a member of the public without verifying a valid licence.

Summary conviction in a Magistrates Court to up to three months’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine; or on conviction on indictment in a Crown Court to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years and/or a fine.

Supplying a regulated substance to a member of the public without first ensuring that a warning label is affixed to the packaging.

Fine not exceeding £500.

Selling a corrosive substance to person under 18.

Summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks, to an unlimited fine or to both.

Delivering, or arranging the delivery of a corrosive product to residential premises or to a locker.

Summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks, to an unlimited fine or to both.

Delivering a corrosive product to a person under the age of 18.

Summary conviction to an unlimited fine.

 

Part 2- Knives & Bladed Items

In the year ending March 2021, there were around 41,000 offences involving a knife or sharp instrument in England and Wales (excluding Greater Manchester Police Force). OWA 2019 built on the Criminal Justice Act 1988 and introduced further measures to tackle knife crime in England and Wales.

The purpose of introducing further legislation was in response to public concern that knives & bladed articles were too readily available to persons under the age of 18. The three main areas of change introduced by OWA 2019 are summarised below:

  1. Age Restriction


    Age Restriction- illegal to sell a knife or bladed article to anyone under 18.

    Buisnesses must have robust age verification and ID checks (both in store and on-line).

  2.  Delivery 


    Must not deliver (or arrange to deliver) a knife or bladed article to a locker.

    Must not deliver (or arrange to deliver) a knife or bladed article to a residential address without sufficient age verification checks.

  3.  Banned Products

    Must not sell, hire, lend or give any banned article to any person.

Age verification processes are needed for in store purchases as well as online transactions. It is not sufficient for retailers to rely on a purchaser ticking a box confirming they are over 18 for online purchases. Business should consider using online age verification software. However, given the expense of such online systems it may not be considered commercially viable for smaller businesses. In these circumstances businesses could consider operating a click and collect service i.e. customer’s reserve the product online but must visit a store to complete the transaction, allowing age verification to be carried out.

Non-compliance with the legislation is considered a criminal offence. The table below summarises the possible penalties, companies and individuals might face:

Penalties

Sale of a knife or bladed article to a person under 18.

Summary conviction in a Magistrates Court to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, an unlimited fine or both.

Arranging the delivery of a knife to a locker.

Summary conviction in England and Wales,

to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks, to an unlimited fine or to both.

Delivering a knife to a residential premises without procedures in place which were likely to ensure that any bladed product delivered by the seller to residential premises would be delivered into the hands of a person aged 18 or over.

Summary conviction in England and Wales to an unlimited fine.

Delivering a knife to a person under the age of 18.

Summary conviction in England and Wales, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks, to an unlimited fine or to both.

Manufacturing, selling or hiring or offering for sale or hire, exposing or having in their possession for the purpose of sale or hire, or lends or gives to any other person, a banned offensive weapon.

Summary conviction to imprisonment for

a term not exceeding 12 months or to an unlimited fine or both. On conviction upon indictment to imprisonment for a term not

exceeding four years, or to an unlimited fine, or to both.

Improper importation of banned offensive weapons

Summary conviction to a penalty of £20,000 or of three times the value of the imported goods whichever is the greater, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to both. On conviction on indictment to a penalty of any amount, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years, or to both.

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Further information on the CTSI’s business guidance and how to participate can be found here.

The information above is for reference only and if you do have any specific legal queries arising from the content of this article or generally please contact our consumer law team, headed by Derek Millard-Smith, on 0345 241 5305 or email us at enquiries@jmw.co.uk. ​​​​​

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Derek Millard-Smith is a Partner located in Manchester in our Professional & Corporate Regulation department

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