SHOPS were caught selling knives and dangerous corrosive substances to underage children during an undercover sting in Southend.

A probe, led by Southend Council and Trading Standards, found three shops selling the restricted and potentially dangerous items to children after volunteers were sent into the shops in the city centre.

Southend Council has said all three shops that failed to follow regulations will be re-tested shortly and will receive an official warning.

If they fail the test again, they will face further action.

The investigation comes just days after Southend Council welcomed the Knife Angel to the city centre as a powerful symbol against violence.

Martin Terry, councillor responsible for community safety, said: “It is a deep, deep concern.

“Particularly right now with the Knife Angel in town, we need to do all we can to prevent knives coming into the hands of young people and stop the irresponsible sales.

“I am so pleased the council are doing this, as it will be a concern to everyone.

“The more that is done, the better, as businesses need to know that they need to act responsibly, and if they don’t they should feel the force of the law.

“We don’t want knives landing in the wrong hands.

“I hope businesses will be taught a lesson as it is not acceptable.”

The poignant sculpture, built from more than 100,000 confiscated and surrendered blades, is on show throughout July as a stark reminder of the dangers of knife crime.

Scott Dolling, Southend BID manager, said: “There are very good reasons for these protections to be in place around what can and can’t be sold.

“The BID will help communicate the findings of the recent investigation to help share the message and support the safety of our residents and businesses.”

Alan Richards, executive director for environment and place, said: “Ensuring the safety of our young people is a top priority.

“This collaboration between Southend Council and Essex Police aims to reinforce the responsibilities of local retailers in preventing underage sales of potentially dangerous items.”