Huhne on knife crime: “sellers allowed to ply deadly trade”

by Stephen Tall on July 23, 2008

Extensive coverage today of Chris Huhne’s revelations – via some pointed Parliamentary questions – showing that “none of the people caught selling knives to young people in the last five years were sent to prison and only one was given a community sentence”. The BBC is among those reporting the Lib Dems’ findings that:

• Only 71 people have been successfully prosecuted for selling knives to the children in the last five years
• None were sent to prison and only one was given a community sentence
• 56 were fined, of those 11 were given a fine of between £50 and £100, a further 10 were given fines of less than £200
• In the last 5 years 42 people (75% of all those fined) were given fines of less than £500
• The total value of the fines levied against the 56 people caught selling knives to kids between 2002 and 2006 was £23,025
• The average fine was just £411.16

Chris has condemned the light-touch for knife-sellers:

Unscrupulous shopkeepers who sell knives to kids are profiting from the violence on our streets. It is unacceptable that so few of them are being punished and those that do are being given such pitiful fines. If we are to tackle knife crime, a strong message must be sent to those who ply this deadly trade. Fining them a few hundred quid is not going to do that.”

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Rubbish – stop bullying small shopkeepers. The strict liability imposed on age related sales is one of the most disgustingly over the top laws there is. You’re talking about prison for a mistake which is very easy to make. Yet if someone works for the state they can shoot an innocent man repeatedly and all they get is sympathy. Huhne is an idiot to join in this ridiculous hysteria.

by Chris on July 23, 2008 at 5:49 pm. Reply #

I’m disappointed to be honest. Sure, it’s a nice little piece of research, it will pick up some media coverage, and it makes a little (only a little) more sense to say “stop selling knives to young people” than it does to take Cameron’s line of “lock up everyone who carries a knife”.

What I would like to see is more emphasis on the people and less on the weapons. To borrow a tired cliché: Knives, like guns, don’t kill people – people do. Better detection rates for crimes actually committed, more visible police presence in problem areas – these are surely less blunt tools (if you’ll pardon the mention of sharp implements) against murder and assault?

by Steph Ashley on July 23, 2008 at 6:42 pm. Reply #

Two points.

1. ” Ineffective Authoritarianism” has two many syllabls to be a sound bite or even prhaps a narrative. However i think its a rich vein for the party. Stop mesing us around, snoping on and passing new laws every five minutes and enforce the ones we have.

2. Of course if we ever stop children buying knifes then they’ll be forced to access black mrket sources like their parents kitchen draws…. It is a of course a social problem.

However well done to Chris and exctly the kind of stuff the party should be using the empty airwaves of the silly season to get across.

by David Morton on July 23, 2008 at 7:11 pm. Reply #

Since when did we start to believe that sentences should be set by politicians rather than courts?

Surely of more significance is that there are only 14 convictions a year – either the law works reasonably well or Trading Standards are woefully underresourced. I suspect the latter. How compatible providing them with extra resources is with a “commitment” to find £20bn of spending cuts is an interesting question.

by Hywel Morgan on July 23, 2008 at 7:34 pm. Reply #

And, of course, a lot of these underage sales of “knives” will be for completely harmless pieces of ordinary cutlery – something I discovered while working at Morrisons is that a dessert spoon counts as a “knife” under the relevant Act and we were not allowed to sell them to people under 18.

All that said, Steph is completely correct; complete eradication of underage knife purchases will not stop a minority of children wanting to carry or use them, and some actual police presence might help more with that than this statistic-waving will.

by Jennie on July 24, 2008 at 12:14 am. Reply #

Jennie: if you haven’t already seen it, I refer you to Pink Dog’s recurring theme of spoon crime. It’s not a laughing matter… it’s a barking one, apparently!

by Steph Ashley on July 24, 2008 at 12:53 am. Reply #

“something I discovered while working at Morrisons is that a dessert spoon counts as a “knife” under the relevant Act”

Ridiculous interpretation – though as spoon sales to under 18s are probably a limited amount of Morrison’s business excessive caution probably didn’t have much impact.

by Hywel Morgan on July 24, 2008 at 12:57 am. Reply #

Au contraire. Spoon-carrying by juveniles is a significant cause for concern in urban areas, and it’s typical of the Guardian-reading classes that they make light of the problem.

If only our society had the guts, spoon-carrying – even if the spoon is carried for self defence – would be made a capital offence.

by Anonymous on July 24, 2008 at 1:22 am. Reply #


I agree. Things were better in my day. Let’s all jump in a time machine and go back to the 50s. I can’t think of anything, whatsoever, that might be disagreeable about that.

by asquith on July 24, 2008 at 6:37 am. Reply #

I was in Crete last week and was surprised to see a row of knife shops in Chania, all with their wares for display on boards outside. And yet they don’t have a knife problem. What is it about Britain?

by David on July 24, 2008 at 8:01 am. Reply #

David, I suspect if you look at the figures, Crete will have a similar or maybe even higher “knife crime problem” than we do. Like the gun crime problem we had last year, and the Dangerous Dogs problem a few years ago, what we ACTUALLY have is a Tabloid Hysteria Problem.

Steph, yeah, I linked to Pink Dog’s piece on Spoon Crime on LC a few days ago and got roundly told off for referring to her as Him.

by Jennie on July 24, 2008 at 10:19 am. Reply #

…are you telling me that Pink Dog is a GIRL?

by Alix on July 24, 2008 at 10:38 am. Reply #

Apparently, we’re all supposed to know this because she’s pink. Somebody ought to tell the boys over at Pink News about this pigmentary determinism, I reckon…

She doesn’t write like a girl, though, does she? Mind, neither do I, so…

by Jennie on July 24, 2008 at 10:45 am. Reply #

How does a girl write? However she does, I expect her style wouldn’t have much in common with mine 🙂

by asquith on July 24, 2008 at 10:51 am. Reply #

All my certainties have collapsed like a row of dominos balanced on top of a house of cards.

Shouldn’t she be called Pink Bitch, in that case?

by Alix on July 24, 2008 at 10:55 am. Reply #

But Bitch is a Naughty Word, Alix…

by Jennie on July 24, 2008 at 11:25 am. Reply #

Woof woof bark woof pink woof woof bark bark snarl GIRL grrr snarl woof woof bite ankles.

by Pink Dog on July 24, 2008 at 11:33 am. Reply #

Oh dear… I appear to have derailed a thread. Again.

* evil cackle *

by Jennie on July 24, 2008 at 11:38 am. Reply #


I was talking to the person who owned the place I stayed in. She said that the only incident in the area was of a British man who killed his parents because they wouldn’t give him money for drugs.

by David on July 24, 2008 at 12:34 pm. Reply #

David: you’re onto something there, and I think Jo Swinson is much nearer the cure to knife/gun/spoon/fist crime than Chris Huhne is. She’s a pioneer, and she’s got something special here – if we work towards improving people’s happiness and quality of life rather than their material wealth, a whole raft of social problems would be much reduced.

I rather suspect that the community in Crete places a greater importance on family and has a different attitude to work than the British…

by Steph Ashley on July 24, 2008 at 12:56 pm. Reply #

I’m very disappointed that Chris put his name to this.

Selling a knife to a kid might be illegal, but that doesn’t mean the kid is going to go out and slaughter someone with it. If kids start killing each other by stabbing pencils in each other’s eyes will we ban the sale of pencils?

I can see the need for a serious fine if the shopkeeper sold the 12 inch knife to a kid who asked for it saying “I gonna to kill someone”. But I don’t see the need for anything approaching a significant fine for a shopkeeper that sold a swiss army knife to a kid who spent the whole time talking about his upcoming camping trip to the forest. Let’s keep things in proportion.

Just who exactly will report a shopkeeper that sells knives to the dangerous kids? The parents of knife wielding kids won’t, since they kids most likely keep their weapons secret from them, if the parents even care. The kids certainly won’t report them.

I’d like to know just who reported those knife offences that were prosecuted and just what type of “crimes” they were. Were the people charged repeat offenders, or was it a one off offence? What type of knife was it, basic pocket knife, kitchen knife, meat clever? How many of the reports were by people with vendettas or grudges against the shopkeepers and how many of them were white-middle class parents outraged that their little baby would be allowed to buy such awful evil weapons (like this WMD swiss-army knife). How many were reported by those ethnic groups and in those urban areas where the most knife crime is and the most knives are?

As usual the target of such legislation (well intentioned or otherwise) probably goes unnoticed or ignored by the people it was intended to combat; which would explain why no one is actually prosecuted for it and fines for those that are, are minor.

Even if you do somehow manage to stop all shopkeepers selling knives to kids, they’ll just order them off amazon or ebay with the credit card they just lifted.

by MartinSGill on July 24, 2008 at 1:19 pm. Reply #

Pen-knives//swiss army knives aren’t covered by this bit of legislation. Folding blades below a certain size are excluded.

by Hywel Morgan on July 24, 2008 at 10:12 pm. Reply #

Not sure what David Cameron would do to this gentleman 🙂

by Hywel Morgan on July 24, 2008 at 10:28 pm. Reply #

Maybe Chris should listen to his Home Affairs spokesman David Howarth, “”There must be more focus on catching criminals in the first place, rather than posturing on penalties.”

by Hywel Morgan on July 31, 2008 at 11:16 am. Reply #

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