B&M must pay almost £500,000 for selling knives to teenagers in Barking, Chadwell Heath and Dagenham stores
PUBLISHED: 14:54 21 September 2018 | UPDATED: 16:25 21 September 2018
One of the country's largest discount retailers has been ordered to pay almost £500,000 for repeatedly selling knives to children in Barking, Dagenham and Chadwell Heath.
B&M Bargains admitted its staff handed over blades to four teenagers as young as 14 who were sent to stores by police and trading standards officers.
The company was fined a record £480,000 and ordered to pay an additional £12,000 in court costs.
The court took into consideration its earlier guilty plea so reduced the fine from £720,000.
Imposing the fine, Judge Gary Lucie said: “One of the most concerning failures is that B&M did not consider and implement further measures for these stores in what it accepts are high risk areas.
“These could have involved putting knives in cabinets and or using a card system. This puts the knives beyond the reach of anyone and in my view make the process of challenging age much more effective. If it can be done for expensive items such as perfume it can equally done for knives”
Barkingside Magistrates’ Court heard that two teenagers, aged 14 and 15, were sent into the Chadwell Heath B&M in Goodmayes Retail Park to purchase knives in September last year.
A couple of days later the store inside the Vicarage Field shopping centre in Barking was visited by a 16-year-old who picked up a three-piece knife set.
And in January a 14-year-old was sent into a store in Whalebone Lane South, Dagenham, where they bought a three-piece knife set.
During each undercover operation the teenagers purchased knives completely unchallenged by staff.
It is illegal to sell a blade over three inches long to anyone under 18. Companies can face unlimited fines for breaking the law.
Judge Lucie said: ““These failings could not be properly considered as minor nor isolated - there were three offences in a five month period at two different stores.
“There had also been a sale of a knife to an under 18 at the Vicarage Fields store relatively recently on 24 April, 2016 for which B&M was cautioned.”
At an earlier hearing John McNally, acting for Barking and Dagenham Council, told the court the retailer was prepared to put perfume in a locked cabinet but not knives.
“That, I think, speaks to how cautious the company is,” he said.
Stuart Jessop, defending, said B&M served millions of customers a week from its 560 stores and it was “inevitable” mistakes were made.
“There is remorse from the company,” he said.
B&M had a turnover in the last 12 month to this March of £2.6billion with profits of around £195m.
B&M’s fine eclipses the previous record imposed on sports chain Decathlon, which was ordered to pay £20,000 in March after selling a knife to a teenager in Wandsworth.