The following article is taken from the Direct Gov web pages.
Knife crime, particularly amongst young people, is in the news almost every day. At the moment, a number of different rules apply to knives and it isn't always immediately clear what is legal and what isn't.
- it is illegal for any shop to sell a knife of any kind (including cutlery and kitchen knives) to anyone under the age of 18
- it is generally an offence to carry a knife in public without good reason or lawful authority (for example, a good reason is a chef on the way to work carrying their own knives)
- the maximum penalty for an adult carrying a knife is four years in prison and a fine of £5000
- knives where the blade folds into the handle, like a Swiss Army Knife, aren't illegal as long as the blade is shorter than three inches (7.62 cms)
If a knife is used in a threatening way (even a legal knife, such as a Swiss Army knife), it is regarded as an 'offensive weapon' by the law. This is also the case with things like screwdrivers - once used in a threatening manner, they are treated as offensive weapons. It is an offence to carry an offensive weapon in a public place, if you don't have a reasonable excuse. This means that carrying something that could be viewed as an offensive weapon, and then using it in a threatening way, could mean that you are prosecuted. The penalty is up to four years' imprisonment and/or a fine.
There is a complete ban on the sale of certain types of knives categorised as offensive weapons, regardless of their use, these include:
- flick knives - knives where the blade is hidden inside the handle and shoots out when a button is pressed; these are also called 'switchblades' or 'automatic knives'
- butterfly knives - where the blade is hidden inside a handle that splits in two around it, like wings; the handles swing around the blade to open or close it
- disguised knives - where the blade is hidden inside something like a belt buckle or fake mobile phone
The police's 'Stop and Search' powers
Police officers may stop you, and have the right to search any person or vehicle, if they suspect you of an offence - including carrying an offensive weapon. Weapons regarded as offensive include, but are not limited to, the following:
- flick knives
- gravity knives
- samurai swords
- belt-buckle knives
- push daggers
- butterfly knives
- blow-pipes or guns
- kubotan (cylindrical container, holding spikes)
- shuriken (also known as 'death stars' or 'throwing stars')
- telescopic truncheons (automatically extending)
- kusari-gama (sickle attached to a rope, cord or wire)
- kyoketsu-shoge (hook-knife attached to a rope, cord or wire)
- kusari (weight attached to a rope, cord or wire)
- disguised knives (for example, lipstick knives)
- stealth knives
- straight, side-handled or friction-lock truncheons
Searches in schools and colleges
School staff in England have the power to search, without consent, any pupil they suspect of carrying a knife or other weapon in school, or on an educational visit. Schools can also screen pupils at random, without suspicion, using a screening arch or an electronic 'wand'. Schools are not required by the law to inform a parent before performing a search, or to get parental consent. It is a criminal offence to bring a knife or other offensive weapon into school.