THREE stores illegally sold knives to a 15-year-old boy during an undercover sting operation that was run by police in St Helens.

Trading standards officers joined forces with police for the operation which was aimed at making sure retailers do not sell knives to under 18s.

The teenager was sent into 10 retailers and three of those stores, which have not been named, sold knives to him.

Prior to the operation taking place, information packs giving guidance as to the law around the sale of knives were delivered to 50 retailers across the borough.

Darrell Wilson, the council’s chief trading standards officer, said: “This is the first time test purchasing of knives has taken place in St.Helens and it is disappointing that three premises sold knives to the volunteer.

“Knife crime is a serious issue and Trading Standards will continue to work closely with Merseyside Police in tackling the problem."

Area Commander for Merseyside Police in St Helens, Chief Superintendent Chris Armitt said: "This sends out a clear statement to retailers in St Helens that selling knives to underage persons will not be tolerated and I ask retailers to cooperate with Merseyside Police and Trading Standards in preventing knives falling into the hands of young people."

Police and Trading Standards enquiries into the illegal sales are continuing.

St Helens Council say the law clearly states in that it is a criminal offence to sell knives to anyone under 18. The maximum penalty is a £5000 fine or six months imprisonment.

Further joint test purchase operations between the Police and Trading Standards will be undertaken in the near future.