Knives and offensive weapons

It is illegal to sell to children under 18 years old any knife, knife blade or razor blade, any axe, or any article with a blade which could cause injury

This advice is designed to provide basic guidance to traders. It is not a complete or authoritative statement of the law. Please note that some of the advice we provide to businesses is chargeable.

You have a responsibility to make sure staff are complying with the law, as you can be liable for any sale that takes place – whether you were present or not.

The law in detail


The legislation is enforced by the Police and anyone found selling these items to children less than 18 years old risks a maximum fine of £5,000 and/or a term of imprisonment up to six months or both.


We investigate complaints made by consumers or traders about shops believed to be supplying knives to young persons.

In appropriate cases we will use young volunteers to attempt to buy knives.

Employers' responsibility

Think about the range of knives you sell and if this needs to change: 

  • where are the knives displayed?
  • can staff see the aisles?
  • is it appropriate to security tag some of them, or keep them in a locked display unit?
  • are any Point of Sale deterrent notices displayed?
Staff training is vital

You should ensure all staff are trained at the start of their employment. Repeat this at regular intervals so staff do not forget or become complacent.

To demonstrate you have trained your staff, keep records of any training or instructions given: 

  • ask employees to date and sign training records to confirm they have understood it
  • use your staff notice board to provide reminders
  • reminders of the law at the point of sale are a good idea – this can be by means of a ‘till prompt’
  • ii you have an EPOS system or by notices on the tills
  • move reminders around or replace them frequently to make sure your staff notice them

To show your staff are following their training, set up or include ‘Knives’ in your current ‘Refusals Register’ or similar system, so staff can record when they refuse a sale.

You, or a person you have authorised, should check this record frequently and sign it to show it is being monitored. If the refusal record doesn’t reflect the normal operating pattern for your premises, find out why.

If the refusals record shows some staff refuse more sales than others or make fewer refusals than you would expect, check why this occurs and take appropriate action. Make comments in the register to explain what you did, and when.

Regular supervision of employees to ensure they are following instructions is important. Consider how your staff can keep in touch or be seen if you are away from the sales area by using intercoms, signals or CCTV systems.