High court rules in favour of council in underage knife sale case against Argos
The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham has received a favourable judgement from the High Court after it ruled in favour of the local authority in an appeal where a knife was sold to an individual who was under the age of 18.
The incident happened on 23 December 2019 at the Argos store on 97-131 High Road, Chadwell Heath, where a customer assistant failed to ask for an ID when selling a knife to a minor.
On the 19 June 2021, The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham applied for a summons which was within the six-month time limit set out in the s127 Magistrates’ Court Act 1980.
However, Argos tried to throw out the prosecution on a technicality as they argued that even though the application for a summons was made within time, the prosecution should be dismissed because the council didn’t actually say it was in time.
The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, who were represented by Adam Heppinstall QC and Thomas Malon of Henderson Chambers, instructed by Adam Rulewski from the council, contested this at the High Court and said that it was clear on the face of the application that the summons was applied for in time and there was no need to expressly state to the Magistrates that it was in time.
Argos attempted to get the case thrown out citing the case of another local authority, Milton Keynes, had provided advice to them regarding underage sales which, if followed, would demonstrate ‘due diligence’ and therefore it was an abuse of process for the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham to prosecute because of the advice from another authority and that the advice should be covered by the “Primary Authority” statutory scheme.
However, the High Court favoured the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham that underage knife sales clearly fall outside of the Primary Authority Scheme at the time of sale and the prosecution was not an abuse of process.
In London Borough of Barking and Dagenham v Argos Limited  a separately constituted Divisional Court (Edis LJ, Deputy Senior Presiding Judge, McGowan J) decided that the Divisional Court in Bakers of Nailsea was wrong in so far as its judgment applied to the six-month time limit in which a prosecution has to be commenced for a summary offence under section 127 Magistrates’ Court Act 1980.
Councillor Syed Ghani, Cabinet Member for Enforcement and Community Safety said: “We are very pleased with the outcome and judgement and glad that all the hard work and diligence of our staff involved have been vindicated.
“Our determination and persistence has meant that we have successfully challenged the law on the laying of summons and I am sure this judgement will be welcomed by local authorities across the country.”
The Court concluded that it will be for Argos to show “that it diligently followed the Milton Keynes” and that “In this case, this is likely to include consideration of the training and supervision of the seventeen-year-old shop assistant, among other things. There is nothing unfair about the court undertaking that exercise.”
Unless there is another appeal, the prosecution will return to the Magistrates Court for trial.