If a shop sells a knife to a minor, how will they be sentenced? Draft sentencing guidelines recently published by the Sentencing Council have answered this question.
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Draft sentencing guidelines for underage sale of knives
The Sentencing Council recently published draft guidelines for magistrates and judges to follow when sentencing retailers convicted of selling knives to children in England and Wales. The guidelines specifically relate to situations where a small quantity of knives is sold in a single transaction. It does not apply to more serious cases involving large quantities of knives, or the deliberate or reckless marketing of knives to children.
A knife may be sold online or in store. Either way, those sentenced under these guidelines will have failed to prevent the sale of knives to under-18s.
How will organisations be sentenced?
Organisations cannot be given a custodial sentence. Instead, the guidelines suggest that an organisation be fined between £500 and £1 million. The value of the fine should be based on turnover, ensuring the penalty is proportionate to the size of the organisation.
How will individuals be sentenced?
Individual shop-owners, on the other hand, can expect to face anything from a discharge to a high-level community order. In theory, magistrates could hand out a six month prison sentence, although this is rare.
Will sentences increase?
The purpose of the new guidelines is to create consistency across the board. The Council does not expect sentences to change much compared to previous convictions, although the consequences may be greater for large organisations. In any event, the guidelines are still in the draft stage, with a consultation running until 24 August 2022.
How have previous offenders been convicted?
The majority of individuals convicted of selling a knife to a child have received a fine. In fact, between 2016 and 2020, around 70 adults were convicted of this crime. Of these:
- 75% were fined
- 15% were given an absolute or conditional discharge
- 6% were given a community order
- 3% received a suspended sentence
- 1% were otherwise dealt with
During the same period, nearly 90 organisations were convicted of selling a knife to a child. Of these, 99% were fined and 1% were given a discharge. The fines ranged from £150 to £200,000. A fine will be reduced, if the defendant enters a guilty plea.
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