SEVEN shops were found selling knives to youngsters in a test operation by police to reduce knife crime.

Wiltshire Police and Swindon Trading Standards conducted a test purchase operation on Saturday, September 16, to catch-out retailers who illegally sell knives to people below the age of 18.

The operation was supported by volunteers from the community and included volunteers from the Wiltshire Police Cadets.

The average age of the volunteers was 16.

More than 50 traders across Swindon were visited and seven of them sold knives to under-18s.

At Bristol Crown Court last week Trowbridge man Hayden Maslen, 19, was jailed for 20 months for having a knife in a brawl which led to the death of Jordan Taylor, 25. There is no suggestion that any of the shops sold knives of the style Maslen was carrying.

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  • Hayden Maslen had this knife in a fatal brawl in west Wiltshire. He has been jailed. Picture: Wiltshire Police

The operation was part of the crime prevention element of Operation PUMA, which is part of Wiltshire Police's strategy to reduce knife crime and reduce the number families affected by knife crime.

PC Paul Bezzant, from South Swindon Community Policing Team, said: "Whilst it is disappointing that seven stores failed to comply with their legal obligations, it was very positive that the vast majority of retailers are complying with the law and refused to sell knives to children.

"This operation has led to formal warnings and we're working with the businesses to make sure this doesn't happen again and that they can develop a better way of working.

"We are determined to tackle this issue and are committed to working alongside our partner Swindon Trading Standards to ensure compliance and to help reduce the risk to our communities.

“Wiltshire Police and Swindon Trading Standards will be undertaking Test Purchases Operations in the future in order to ensure local businesses continue to fulfil their legal obligations.

"If they break the law they could face serious consequences and could be prosecuted.

This Test Purchase Operation is also supported by the delivery of the Wiltshire Police FAKE (Firearms & Knife Education) Programme that is delivered to schools across Wiltshire.