What is the law?
Possession of a bladed article
A bladed article is usually a knife of some description. It is an offence to be found in possession of a bladed article in public even if there is no intention to use it.
The law prohibits the possession of any article that has a blade or is sharply pointed, unless it is a folding pocket knife which has a blade which is less than 3 inches in length. The law can be difficult to interpret. You may find yourself being investigated for this offence if you were carrying the knife quite innocently, or if you forgot you had it with you. It is considered an aggravating feature of the offence and likely to attract a higher sentence if it is alleged that the knife or bladed article was actually or likely to be used in any way.
Although it is not considered an offence to simply possess a bladed article or knife in private, when the police investigate an incident where it is alleged that a knife or bladed article was used in private (whether in a threatening manner or actual use) then other offences may be committed such as possessing an offensive weapon or some form of criminal assault.
Possession of an offensive weapon
The law defines an offensive weapon as: ‘any article made or adapted for use to causing injury to the person, or intended by the person having it with him for such use.’
There law recognizes three categories of offensive weapon:
- Weapons made with the intent of causing harm or injury to another. This can include a variety of objects, such as a knuckle duster which on the face of it is made with the intent of being used to cause injury or harm.
- Weapons adapted for the purpose of causing harm. This category included any object which has been adapted or changed from its original form so that it has the capability to cause harm or injury.
- Weapons that are carried with the intention of causing harm or injury to another. This can include ordinary objects and whether an offence has been committed will depend on the circumstances of where, when and how the suspect was found to be in possession of it.
What do the prosecution need to prove?
The first two categories above do not require the prosecution to prove intent to cause harm or injury on the suspects part. The mere possession of an object which is itself made, designed or adapted to cause harm is enough for intention to be inferred. In the third category, the prosecution are required to prove that a suspect possessed the object with an intent to cause harm or injury.
Available defences to possessing of an offensive weapon
There are available defences to this offence. The law recognize that there are certain trades and types of employment that require an employee, workman or member of staff to possess an knife or an object which can, in certain circumstances, be considered an offensive weapon. It would be open to a suspect to defend an allegation of this type by arguing:
- That the knife is a tool of your trade. Stanley knives are a common tool in the working environment, as is a knife for a chef.
- That the knife is possessed for religious reasons.
Sentencing for bladed articles and offensive weapons
Anyone found guilty of the offence of possessing a bladed article or knife can receive a sentence ranging from a low level community order to a term of imprisonment. Determining what sentence will be imposed in any case will depend on a variety of factors particular to both the offence itself and the offender. Two key factors will be whether the offence is admitted early, and whether or not the offender has any relevant previous convictions. The court will also look closely at other mitigating or aggravating factors.
New sentencing guidelines from 1st June 2018
It is clear that given the increased prevalence in possession and the use of bladed articles and offensive weapons, the courts are imposing much harsher sentences, and it is now more common than ever for such offences to be met with a custodial sentence. The sentencing guidelines council have issued new guidelines to the courts which are to be applied from the 1st June 2018. It is clear that the courts are being encouraged to be tougher on those responsible for these offences.
The guidelines can be difficult to interpret so we would be happy to advise you on them.
There are also some knives that are automatically illegal in the UK to possess such as flick knives or butterfly knives. Interpreting the law can be difficult.
If you have any questions, please contact us in London (West Drayton) on 01895 449288 or in Hertfordshire (St Albans) on 01727 840900 or by email via our contact page.