Retailers could be fined up to £1 million for selling knives to underage customers under new draft sentencing guidelines.
Two guidelines apply separately to individual shop owners and large retailers who fail to ensure that they have adequate safeguards in place to prevent the sale of knives to under 18s in England and Wales, either in store or online.
There are currently no sentencing guidelines for selling knives to minors, which is prosecuted by Trading Standards and dealt with in magistrates’ courts.
Large organisations with a turnover or equivalent of £50 million could be fined up to £1 million, while individuals who operate small shops could be fined up to 700% of their weekly income.
The council said that while it did not expect sentences to change for most offenders, large organisations could see higher fines under the proposals.
Fines handed down to individuals between 2016 and 2020 ranged from £34 to £6,000.
Of nearly 90 organisations sentenced between 2016 and 2020, 99% were fined between £150 to £200,000.
The new guidelines would ensure the courts took a consistent approach to sentencing for knife sale offences, the council said.
Sentencing Council magistrate member Jo King said: “Selling knives to children can lead to very serious consequences.
“There is the risk of serious physical harm to the children who buy these knives and to other people as well as the risk of wider social harms associated with the circulation of weapons among children.
“A child purchasing a knife is also at risk of prosecution for possession of the knife.
“It is important that all possible safeguards should be put in place to prevent the sale of knives to children, and that the penalties for organisations are substantial enough to bring home to both management and shareholders the need to operate within the law.”
Paul Noone, acting chairman of National Trading Standards, said: “Given the devastation youth knife crime causes, Trading Standards has campaigned hard for consistent rules to be applied in sentencing those who sell knives to children.
“We strongly support this move by the Sentencing Council to seek to achieve this important outcome.”
The consultation will run until August 24.