Sheffield's Master Cutler says a call to stop shops selling knives sends the wrong message

The Master Cutler has said a new campaign to stop shops selling knives in a bid to cut knife crime focuses on the wrong problem.

Tuesday, 11th February 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 11:43 am

The Local Government Association is calling for retailers to stop selling knives unless it is a ‘core part of their business’ to tackle the knife crime epidemic.

The LGA, which represents councils in England and Wales, is urging retailers to become ‘no knife shops’ unless they are hardware or DIY shops, or suppliers of kitchenware.

But Master Cutler Nick Williams said it sends a message that the knife is the problem.

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Master Cutler Nick Williams

The Master Cutler is head of the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire, founded in 1624 to represent Sheffield’s cutlery makers and steel producers.

He said: “Any action to reduce knife crime and particularly any which prevents deaths inflicted as a result is to be welcomed.

“However, the difficulty with this sort of initiative is that it conveys the impression that the problem is the knife rather than the individual wielding it.

“We need to focus on the real problem and deal with the criminals who commit knife crime. Restricting access to knives may have an impact but as almost every kitchen has a number of blades it will be limited.

“The people who commit knife crime are the problem. We need to focus on addressing that.”

The LGA says its campaign would reduce the availability of knives in local communities and the risk of them being used in violent crime.

Latest official figures show recorded knife crime in England and Wales is at a record high, while hospital admissions due to knife-related injuries have risen by 41 per cent since 2014/15.

Islington Council in London has recently launched the UK’s first “No Knife Shop” scheme. The initiative aims to encourage businesses to consider whether there is a real need for them to sell knives, and pledge to stop selling them if not.

Coun Simon Blackburn of the LGA said councils had reported some shocking cases of illegal knife sales which risked fuelling “this tragic epidemic.”

He added: “There are many legitimate reasons for buying and selling knives, and most businesses sell knives responsibly. But for many retailers, particularly smaller shops such as convenience stores and corner shops, knife sales typically generate a tiny fraction of overall business income.

“We urge retailers, including online businesses, to be part of collective efforts to reduce the availability of knives and seriously consider why they need to sell them.”

The move comes as councils warn that a lack of funding for enforcement activity is making tackling illegal knife sales an even tougher challenge, particularly since the Offensive Weapons Act came into force, which has put new responsibilities on councils to carry out under-age test purchase operations at the point of delivery for online knife sales.

The LGA is urging government to extend the Home Office Prosecutions Fund - set up as part of the Serious Violence Strategy but due to expire this year - which has helped some councils prosecute retailers for blatant breaches of knife sale laws.