Op Sceptre: Test purchasing operations across the region

Volunteer Police Cadets assisted Police and Trading Standards Officers with a recent test purchase operation across North Wales aimed at tackling knife crime.

Photograph of the Op Sceptre logo

The test purchases were carried out as part of Operation Sceptre, a national operation dedicated to tackling knife crime, with the cadets visiting 63 stores that offer knives for sale across all six counties during a week-long campaign.

It is illegal to sell a knife or similar bladed article to a person under the age of 18. Doing so is an offence that both the individual seller and business involved can be liable for, and can attract a penalty of imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

Of the 62 premises that were visited, 48 of them passed. However the 14 stores which sold knives to the underage youngsters will now be visited by police and local authorities to be given further advice and reminded of their responsibilities to ensure they follow the law on the sale of knives.

Detective Inspector Tecwyn Green of North Wales Police said: “The purpose of the operation – which was the first time North Wales Police has conducted such a coordinated approach to tackling knife crime collaboratively, was to test local stores of their awareness of the law, their security measures and their own range of verification schemes.

“Retailers play a crucial role in ensuring our young people can’t get hold of knives which could then be used to cause harm. Whilst we are pleased that 48 of the stores we visited refused to sell to our cadets for not having any identification, unfortunately a number of them did allow purchases to be made. The licensing team from the relevant local authority will now be working with them to discuss how to resolve.

“North Wales Police and all partner agencies are committed in doing everything they can to tackle knife crime. If you carry a knife, not only are you putting other lives at risk, but also your own. We will continue to work closely with retailers and further test purchasing operations will be carried out in the future to ensure all businesses are operating within the law.”

In September 2018, 810 weapons were surrendered at police stations across the region and at recycling centres in Conwy and Denbighshire as part of a national knife amnesty.

Photograph showing the weapons collected during the 2018 amnesty

The amnesty was done as part of the week-long Op Sceptre which took place between 18th and 24th September. During the week a number of initiatives too place such as providing weapon detecting wands at ten night time establishments across the region and special assemblies being delivered at secondary schools as part of the All Wales School Liaison Core Programme.

The campaign also saw local policing teams visiting over 125 shops throughout the North Wales region where retailers were asked about how they challenged those who appeared under 18, checked to see if there was adequate signage being clearly displayed, and assessed whether the knives were displayed in a safe, secure and appropriate manner.

Assistant Chief Constable Neill Anderson said: “We fully support the national Operation Sceptre campaign, by targeting those who habitually carry and use knives, tackling the supply and access to weapons and engaging with the public to increase awareness of the consequences of carrying knives.

“Carrying a knife or a weapon is still a reality for some people, many of whom are unaware of the repercussions. It does not keep you safe and by carrying a knife you are putting yourself and others in much greater danger. If caught with a knife you could face a prison sentence of up to five years – and that is just for possession in a public place. If you cause injury there will be other charges to answer and you could go to prison for longer. It’s just not worth the risk.

ACC Anderson added: "I want to reassure our communities that we will continue our work day in and day out and we are committed to tackling knife crime by continuing to work closely with our partners to help prevent and disrupt criminal activity. We will also continue to act on information reported to us, however, this is not something that North Wales Police can tackle alone and we need everyone to be involved.

"Nobody wants to be a statistic and I am appealing to parents and guardians - talk to your children about knife crime, educate them of the dangers and help us to make it socially unacceptable for ANYONE to carry a knife when they go out.”

If you have information regarding knife crime or if you know of someone carrying a knife, please report it to North Wales Police on 101 or via the live webchat. Alternatively you can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. In an emergency always dial 999.

The Law

  • It is illegal for any shop to sell a knife of any kind (including cutlery and kitchen knives) to anyone under the age of 18.
  • It is a crime to carry a knife in public without good reason
  • The maximum penalty for an adult carrying a knife is four years in prison and a fine of £5000.
  • It is illegal to carry, buy or sell any type of knife banned by the government.
  • Knives with folding blades, like Swiss Army knives, are not illegal as long as the blade is three inches long (7.62 cm) or less.
  • If any knife is used in a threatening way (even a legal knife, such as a Swiss Army knife), it is regarded as an 'offensive weapon' by the law.
  • Any sharp instrument – even a screwdriver – can be viewed by the police as an illegal offensive weapon if you do not have a good reason for carrying it.
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