B&M Bargains has been hit with a £480,000 fine for repeatedly selling knives to underage shoppers as young as 14.

The discount general merchandiser pleaded guilty to selling knives to children, following an undercover police operation.

The retailer admitted to Barkingside Magistrates’ Court to selling a three-piece knife set to a 16-year-old in its Barking branch and 14-year-old in its Dagenham store in January. Two children, aged 15 and 14, were also unchallenged by staff when buying a set of four knives from the retailer’s GoodMayes Retail Park outlet in Redbridge last September.

The fine was reduced from £720,000 to £480,000, owing to the early guilty plea, and the court also imposed costs of £12,428 court fees and a £170 victim surcharge. B&M has 28 days to pay.

‘Deficient system’

District judge Gary Lucie said: “Clearly these offences were not deliberate nor were there serious or systematic failures within the organisation regarding the underage sales of knives.

“However, it appears to me that whilst systems were in place they were deficient and sufficiently adhered to or implemented at these stores.

“The volunteers were as young as 14 which is a long way short of 18 and substantially less that B&M’s own Challenge 25 policy.

“Knife crime is at record levels across the country, particularly in London.

“One of the most concerning failures is that B&M did not implement other systems. This includes putting knives in cupboards, as it does with perfume.”

It is illegal to sell a blade longer than three inches to under 18s.