Is a knife an offensive weapon? What is the official definition?
Yes, a knife is classed as an offensive weapon. The definition of an offensive weapon is any article made or adapted for use to cause injury to the person, or intended by the person having it with them for such use by them or by some other person. (This definition includes a disguised knife).
Offensive weapons include:
Something made to cause injury. The following are offensive weapons: a machete, a flick knife, a truncheon etc. These don’t really have an innocent intention. However, an ordinary razor or penknife may not be offensive weapons because they do have a day-to-day purpose;
Something adapted to cause injury for example, a bottle that has been deliberately broken or an unscrewed pool cue;
Something that is not made, or adapted, but is intended to be used for the purpose of causing injury, for example a work hammer or a brick.
I carry a small folding knife, am I breaking the law?
No. You can carry a knife in public if it has a folding blade that is 3 inches (7.62cm) or less in length. However if any knife is used to threaten or intimidate it is considered an offensive weapon.
Please note, lock knives are not classed as folding knives and are illegal to carry in public.
How old do you have to be to buy a knife?
It is illegal to sell knives to anyone under the age of 18. (Note that in Scotland there is an exception allowing those that are 16 years old or over to buy kitchen knives.)
The general ban includes any knife, knife blade, razor blade or axe and includes any other article which has a blade or which is sharply pointed and which is made or adapted for use for causing injury to the person.
Can you be arrested for having a knife even if you don’t use it?
It is an offence for any person who, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, has with him in any public place any offensive weapon. This means it is illegal to carry a knife in public without good reason (such as religious purposes).
What sort of punishment can I expect for having a knife in my possession?
Those found to have a knife in their possession can expect to face a prison sentence of up to four years.
What about if the knife is used to scare but no injury is caused?
It is against the law to use any knife (even those legally allowed to be carried in public) or offensive weapon in a threatening way.
If somebody has been fatally stabbed in your presence, you can be found guilty of that person's murder in 'joint enterprise' if:
you are part of a group and someone in that group kills someone with a knife. This is also the same for any other weapon or physical attack;
you were supporting the perpetrator's actions in some way. This could be verbally, through physical actions or you acted as a supportive presence. In short, your words, actions or presence created a supportive atmosphere for the attacker;
you knew that the person who made the attack was going to initiate violence against the victim.
In some cases, you are able to avoid being prosecuted as part of a joint enterprise if you can prove you are not liable. This could be, but is not exhausted to proving you called the police, tried to prevent the attack or removed yourself from the group. You could also avoid prosecution if you had agreed some level of interaction with the victim and attacker but had no knowledge that the attacker planned to use a knife on the victim.
A recent judgement summarised joint enterprise as:
“When people come together without agreement, often spontaneously, to commit an offence together, the giving of intentional support by words or deeds including by supportive presence, is sufficient to attract secondary liability on ordinary principles.”
Are there any cases when I am allowed to carry a knife?
It is down to YOU to prove that you had good reason or lawful authority to be carrying such an article in a public place. Reasons are:
- for use at work
- for religious reasons
- as part of any national costume
- an exhibition at gallery or museum
- theatre/ TV/ historical reenactments
I'd like to dispose of some kitchen knives. How can I do this?
Knives can be recycled at your local household waste recycling points. Before the knives are recycled they should be well wrapped in order to prevent causing harm.
Are all knives legal if they are not took out in public?
No. Some knives are illegal under UK law to sell, hire, lend or give. These included but are not exclusive too:
butterfly knives (a blade hidden inside a handle)
disguised knives ( a blade or sharp point in what looks like an everyday item.)
flick knives (automatic knives, a blade hidden that "shoots" open)
Zombie knives (a knife with a cutting edge, typically with decorated with violent images or text.)