UK Knife Laws
To help protect society, UK law has strict guidelines on when and how people can manufacture, buy and carry knives. The main legislation that governs this area of law is found in the Criminal Justice Act (1988) and the Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959. These pieces of legislation include rules such as it being illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to be sold a knife, it being illegal to manufacture flick knives and illegal to import certain types of knife.
The following article clarifies some of the most important UK knife laws, including the likely penalties for breaking these laws.
Basic UK Knife Laws
UK knife laws are in depth and thorough and aim to prevent the manufacture, sale and use of dangerous weapons. Some of the most important laws regarding knives include the following:
- It is illegal for any person to sell a knife to somebody under the age of 18 unless the knife has a folding blade that is under 3 inches in length.
- It is illegal for any person to carry a knife in public without having a good reason. Again, a knife with a folding blade that does not exceed 3 inches may be carried.
- It is illegal for any person to purchase, carry, sell or manufacture any type of knife that is banned in the UK.
- It is illegal for a knife to be used in a threatening way, even if the knife is a legal one.
Lock knives are not recognised as being folding knives, and it is unlawful to carry one in public without having a good reason to do so. Lock knives are those that have a blade which can be locked and refolded by pressing a button. They can also include multiple other tools (such as a Swiss army knife).
Banned Knives in the UK
Some types of knives are completely banned in the UK. The following knives are illegal to bring into the country, sell, lend, give to or hire out:
- Butterfly knives/Balisongs. These knives have a hidden blade inside a handle which splits in the middle.
- Disguised Knives. This refers to knives/blades/sharp objects that are hidden inside everyday objects such as a brush, buckle, pen or lipstick.
- Push daggers
- Flick knives/Switchblades/Automatic knives. These types of knives have a hidden blade inside a handle which flicks out at the press of a button.
- Gravity knives
- Zombie knives. These types of knife have a serrated edge and often have images or words printed on them which are considered to have violent connotations.
- Stealth knives. A stealth knife has a blade or spike which is made from something other than metal.
- Swords. Swords, including samurai swords, which have a curved blade that exceeds 50 cm in length are illegal. There are some exceptions to this rule, particularly for antique swords.
- Sword-sticks. These types of blade are concealed in a hollow walking stick.
- Kyoketsu-shoge. This is a hook-knife which is attached to a rope, wire or cord.
Acceptable Reasons for Carrying a Knife
The law recognises that there are some good reasons for carrying a knife whilst in public. This includes:
- Transporting knives for work purposes
- Transporting a knife for exhibition purposes in a museum or gallery
- To take the knife to a theatre or production venue so that it may be used in a show, television or film recording.
- Transporting a knife for historical reenactment purposes
- Because the knife will be used as part of an educational demonstration or for training purposes.
If an individual is carrying a knife in public, it will be up to a court to determine whether there was a good and acceptable reason. If not, that person will be considered as having committed a criminal offence.
A 4 year prison sentence is the maximum punishment that can be given to somebody found guilty of carrying a knife illegally. The punishment can also include an unlimited fine. If a person is convicted for carrying a knife illegally on multiple occasions, a prison sentence is a certainty.
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