The Heart of England Co-operative Society has banned the sale of knives from its food stores because of growing fears about teenage knife crime.

The society, which has 33 branches across Coventry, Warwickshire and south Leicestershire, said it would remove all knives from food stores and refuse to sell them to people who appeared under 25 in non-food stores. Customers who looked under 25 would be asked for ID proving they were over 18. The scheme was intended to prevent knives falling into the wrong hands following the high number of teenage stabbings this year, said CEO Ali Kurji.

“We have a moral, social and legal responsibility to ensure the law is observed, and have introduced this policy to remove the possibility of under-18s tricking our staff into selling them knives,” he said. “This policy means our staff will not need to make an on-the-spot decision and makes it very difficult for a 17-year-old to convince them that they are old enough to buy a knife.”

The move brings Heart of England’s knife-selling policy into line with its tobacco and alcohol Challenge 25 policy, launched earlier this year.