Q: How old must I be to buy a knife?
A: It is an offence for anyone to sell a knife to any person under 18 years of age in the UK.
141A. - (1) Any person who sells to a person under the age of sixteen years an article to which this section applies shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or both.
(2) Subject to subsection (3) below, this section applies to-
(a) any knife, knife blade or razor blade,
(b) any axe, and
(c) 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.
Section 43 of The violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 has amended the following...
There is an exemption order to the above, The Criminal Justice Act 1988 (Offensive Weapons) (Exemption) Order 1996 which reads as follows:
(a) a folding pocket-knife if the cutting edge of its blade does not exceed 7.62 centimetres (3 inches).
(b) razor blades permanently enclosed in a cartridge or housing where less than 2 millimetres of any blade is exposed beyond the plane which intersects the highest point of the surfaces preceding and following such blades.
A: A knife with a device for locking the blade in the open position, sometimes called a safety lock!
Q: Is a Leatherman Wave a lock knife?
Q: Is an Opinel a lock knife?
A: Generally, yes! Certainly the most common models are. Almost all models of Opinel knives have their patented VIROBLOC® locking ring, these are lock knives. But there are a few models of Opinel knives which do not have the locking ring or any other locking mechanism, obviously these are not lock knives.
Q: I dont always use the locking ring on my Opinel. If the ring is not engaged, is it still classified as a lock knife?
Q: Is a Swiss Army Knife (SAK) a lock knife?
A: Some of the larger models are, most are not. If it has a lock, it's a lock knife, if it doesn't, it isn't!
Q: What is the legal definition of a lock knife?
A: A Crown Court case (Harris v DPP), saw an enthusiastic lawyer convincing a judge that a lock knife was equivalent to a fixed blade knife when the lock was engaged. Even though it has not been defined in a parliamentary act, it has never been overturned or superseded and so is effective law (case law). A lock knife for all legal purposes, is the same as a fixed blade knife. A folding pocket knife must be readily foldable at all times. If it has a mechanism that prevents folding, it's a lock knife (or for legal purposes, a fixed blade)!
In theory, case law can be overturned by a more senior judge or court. The Harris ruling has been tested in a more senior court, namely the Court of Appeal - the highest court in the UK before parliament. The case of REGINA - v - DESMOND GARCIA DEEGAN, Court of Appeal 1998, upheld the Harris ruling stating that "folding was held to mean non-locking". No leave to appeal was granted. This is significant, since the Harris ruling was upheld in the Court of Appeal by Deegan, ALL COURTS MUST now adhere to the ruling.
Q: Are lock knives illegal to own?
A: No! You can quite legally buy, make, sell, import or gift a lock knife. It is perfectly legal to own and use a lock knife on your own property, or on private property where you have the landowners permission. It is, however, ILLEGAL to carry a lock knife in a public place, unless you have a good reason to do so.
Q: Are fixed blade or sheath-knives illegal to own?
Q: Can I carry a lock knife (or a fixed blade knife) in a public place just because I feel like it?
A: No, it is ILLEGAL to carry a lock knife in a public place without a good reason.
Q: Can I carry a lock knife in a public place if I have a good reason?
Q: Can I carry a fixed blade (sheath) knife in a public place if I have a good reason?
Q: What constitutes a "good reason"?
A: According to section 139, subsections 4&5 of The Criminal justice Act 1988....
(5) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (4) above, it shall be a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to prove that he had the article with him—
- for use at work;
- for religious reasons; or
- as part of any national costume.
A: Yes. What constitutes a good reason is a matter for common sense, the police and the courts. There is no exhaustible list defined in law. If you think you have a good reason and a police officer disagrees, it'll be up to the courts to decide your fate.
Q: I have an allotment and it's time to cut my cabbages. Can I legally take a fixed blade knife to my allotment to cut my cabbages?
A: That would seem reasonable to me, but there is no written rule. The final word is a matter of magistrate opinion.
Q: I am an odd job man and occasionally have to strip 13amp wires for plugs. Can I carry my 10inch custom Bowie for this eventuality?
A: That would NOT seem reasonable to me, but there is no written rule. The final word is a matter of magistrate opinion.
Q: I am a devout Sikh and am required by my religion to carry a traditional knife or kirpan, can I carry one in a public place?
A: Yes. That is specifically cited as an example of a "good reason" defence in statute.
Q: I am Scottish by birth, can I carry a dagger or Skein Dubh in my sock as part of my Highland dress?
A: Yes. That is specifically cited as an example of a "good reason" defence in statute.
Q: I proclaimed myself a Jedi Knight for the last census, can I carry a light sabre?
A: Sadly, no. Although many tens of thousands cited Jedi as their religion, it is not officially recognised in law.
Q: Is "self defence" a good reason?
A: Absolutely not! If you are carrying a knife for self defence, by definition you are carrying the knife as a weapon. Not only are you guilty of carrying a bladed article, contrary to s139 of The Criminal justice Act 1988, but you are also guilty of the more serious offence of carrying an offensive weapon.
Q: What is the penalty for carrying a lock knife in public, without a good reason?
A: According to section 139, subsections 6 (a) & (b) of The Criminal justice Act 1988:
- on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or both;
- on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or a fine, or both.
Section 42 of The Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 has the following amendment to the above...
(a) section 139(6)(b) (maximum penalty for offence of having knife etc. in public place);
(b) section 139A(5)(a)(ii) (maximum penalty for offence of having knife etc. or offensive weapon on school premises).
A: Section 139, subsection 7 of The Criminal justice Act 1988, defines it as:
Q: Can I keep a locking knife in the glove compartment of my car, just because I feel like it?
A: No! Your car is defined by law as a public place. There is no legal difference (for the purpose discussed here) between your car and the pavement outside your local cinema. A car is not a piece of land and is therefore not private property unless it's parked on private property. Think of it as luggage. Think of a parked car as left luggage.
Q: Are there any knives I can carry in public in the UK, just because I feel like it?
Q: What kind of knife can I carry in a public place without a good reason?
A: The knife must have a cutting edge of no more than 3 inches and must not have a lock of any kind.
A: The Spyderco Pride, the Spyderco UK Penknife, any old timer type slipjoint with less than 3" blades, many Swiss Army Knife models and Laguiole slip joints, to name a few.
Q: I keep hearing about "slip joints" what are they?
A: A slip joint is a folding knife where the blade is does not lock in the open position, but rather a spring keeps the blade open for some safety. It can be closed without the need to operate any device or lock mechanism. Think of the Swiss Army Knife basic design, the blade opens by pulling it open and it closes simply by folding it. A slip joint with less than a 3" blade is legal carry in the UK.
Q: I heard that "combat knives" are illegal to own, is this true?
A: No. The Knives Act 1997, made it illegal to market or sell a knife as a combat knife, but it is not illegal to own or buy one.
Q: Are flick knives illegal to buy?
A: Yes. Flick knives, automatics or switchblades are on the "banned items list".
Q: Is there any way at all I can legally acquire a flick knife?
A: No. They are completely illegal to buy, sell, make, construct, pawn, gift, auction, import or otherwise acquire in any way. They were first banned by the Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959 and subsequent acts. With regard to automatic or "flick" knives, the 1959 act makes it illegal to "manufacture, sells or hires or offers for sale or hire, or exposes or has in his possession for the purpose of sale or hire, or lends or gives to any other person. In addition it also states that "The importation of any such knife as is described in the foregoing subsection is hereby prohibited".
Q: So flick knives are illegal to own then?
A: No. You can legally own a flick knife in your own home, providing it was in your posession before the 1959 Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act, came into effect.
Q: Are swords illegal to own?
A: No, swords are perfectly legal to own in your own home.
Q: Are swords illegal to carry in public?
A: Yes, unless it's part of a national costume, or for religious purposes or for a re-enactment event or some other reasonable purpose.
Q: So what items are on this "banned items" list?.
A: Section 141 of The Criminal justice Act 1988 and The Criminal justice Act 1988 (Offensive Weapons) Order 1988 makes it an offence to manufacture, sell or hire or offer for sale or hire, or expose or have in possession for the purpose of sale or hire or lend or give to any person any of the following weapons :
- Balisong or butterfly knife
- Telescopic truncheon
- Push dagger
- Shuriken, shaken, or death star
- Manrikgusari or kusari (rope, cord, wire or chain fastened at each end to a hard weight or hand grip)
- Hollow kubotan (cylindrical container containing a number of sharp spikes)
- Blowpipe or blowgun
- Kusari gama (rope, cord, wire or chain fastened at one end to a sickle)
- Kyoketsu shoge (rope, cord, wire or chain fastened at one end to a hooked knife)
- Belt buckle knife
- Disguised knife (added to the list by the 2002 amendment)
- Stealth knife (added to the list by the 2004 amendment)
Q: Is it true that if a knife is too sharp, that can make it illegal?
Q: Can my Swiss Army Knife ever be considered an offensive weapon?
A: Yes, absolutely it can. Anything can be an offensive weapon if you either use it as one, or intend to use it as one.
Q: So could I still be arrested for carrying an otherwise legal Swiss Army Knife?
A: Yes, absolutely. If you do something or say something that gives a person or police officer reason to suspect you intend to use it as a weapon, then you can be arrested for possession of an offensive weapon. The burden for proving "intent" however, sits with the police.
While every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of this FAQ, including peer-review by legal professionals and serving police officers, it is offered to you here as "lay-opinion" and should be considered as such. No guarantees of accuracy are offered or implied. If you have a specific legal issue, you should seek the advice of a registered legal professional.
Many hours work has gone in to researching and compiling this FAQ and it is covered by © BritishBlades copyright 2002 (except those portions quoted from Crown documents which are © Crown copyright 1988 ). It may not be reprinted, in part or in whole without the express permission of BritishBlades. However, in the interests of benefiting as many people as possible, royalty-free permission to reprint the FAQ will usually be given upon request, providing the FAQ is reprinted verbatim, the links to government documents remain intact and a full citation of BritishBlades as the source is given. In addition, a live link back to this thread (or alternatively a printed URL) should be used, in order that changes in the FAQ can be tracked back to this page.