Shops caught selling violent games and knives to children
CITY shops have been caught out selling knives and ultra-violent video games to underage children.
An undercover “mystery shopper” exercise by Plymouth’s Trading Standards officers saw two 16-year-old buyers test out 34 shops.
Two out of 25 stores were happy to hand over knives to the youngsters while five out of nine shops had no problem selling “18+ rated” video games like Grand Theft Auto 4, to the teens.
Councillor Michael Leaves, Cabinet Member for Streetscene and Environmental Regulation, called the carrying of knives by young people a “a plague”.
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Under the Video Recordings Act and the Criminal Justice Act, stores are obligated to ask for proof of age before handing over restricted items.
It was the first time the city council’s trading standards team have targeted games sales and only the second time knife sales have been tested. Last year, out of 23 stores tested, only one failed.
Cllr Leaves said: “It’s vital for shops not to sell youngsters knives and I find it very disappointing that any in Plymouth have done so.
“As for violent video games, I believe they must have a detrimental influence on any children who play them and I would not be at all surprised if there was not a connection with the knife crime issue. Everyone who sells these games must take extra care to ensure they only sell them to those who can legally buy them.”
Lynda Braddock, Trading Standards officer, said the new targeting of games came in light of the “Byron review”.
In March this year TV child psychologist Dr Tanya Byron produced a Government-commissioned review of the impact of violent adult games on children.
She recommended reforming the classification system for video games with one set of symbols on the front of all boxes which are the same as those for film.
Lynda Braddock, who led the operation, said: “The statistics for knife sales are encouraging but it’s still disappointing to find some shops not on board with this issue especially bearing in mind the media coverage on knife crime in recent months.
“And we’re disappointed that the games sellers concerned don’t seem to have taken their training on board or recognised the fact that these games are given a high age rating for a reason.”
The trading officers targeted games which stated they contained violence, including the much publicised Grand Theft Auto 4, which carries a warning about “strong violence, very strong language, sex and drugs references.” Other games targeted included Hitman and Saints Row.
Ms Braddock said: “Games are becoming more and more violent and more and more interactive. Youngsters are using them for four or more hours a day, living the life of a gangster.
“You must lose your shock factor if you’re continuously killing people – and then get rewarded for being violent.”
The two test buyers – a girl and a boy – were also able to buy a 9” to 10” kitchen knife in one store and a pack of four steak knives in another.
Ms Braddock said each of the stores would now be investigated and interviewed to determine what sanctions would be taken. They range from a warning letter, explaining they will be monitored in the coming months, up to the maximum penalty – a six-month prison sentence and/or a £5,000 fine.