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Laws for Carrying a Knife in Public

If an adult gets caught carrying a knife it can result in a 4 year prison sentence and an unlimited fine. A second conviction for the same offence would result in automatic imprisonment.

LAWS ON KNIVES UK: Legislation governs selling, buying, or carrying a knife. It is against the law to:

  • Sell a knife to anyone younger than 18 years old. An exception applies if it has a folding blade up to 3 inches long (7.62 cm).
  • Buy, sell, or carry any type of banned knife or weapon.
  • Carry a knife in a public area without a valid reason. An exception applies if it has a folding blade and the cutting edge is no longer than 3 inches (7.62 cm).
  • Use any kind of knife (even a legal one) in a threatening way.

Note: The law on carrying knives in Scotland differs. You can buy cutlery and kitchen knives from the age of sixteen (16) in Scotland.

Lock Knives UK Law

The definition of a lock knife is one that has similarities to a folding knife. That means a spring holds it closed. But, it also has a mechanism that locks the blade in position when extended ‘fully’. Thus, you cannot close the bladed part without releasing that mechanism.

No matter how short the blade is, the law does not define any type of lock knives as a folding pocket knife. Thus, it is illegal to carry a lock knife without a valid excuse for doing so.

Lock knives were not made to be a weapon per se. Thus, they are not typical offensive weapons ‘in the eyes of the law’. Even so, it is an offence to have possession of a lock knife in a public place (without a reasonable excuse for having it).

Note: Possession of a multi-tool may also break the laws for carrying a knife in the United Kingdom.

This type of instrument often incorporates a prohibited bladed instrument or a sharp point. This is despite other sections of the tool being of use to a person in a public place (e.g. a bottle opener or a screwdriver). As a rule, lock knives:

  • Contain a blade that locks and then refolds by pressing a button only.
  • May include so called ‘multi-tool knives’ that contain other useful devices as part of the instrument.

Complete List of Banned Knives and Weapons

United Kingdom law does not all anyone to bring into the country, hire, lend, sell, or give to another person:

  • Batons (including side-handled, straight, or friction-lock truncheons).
  • Blowpipes (sometimes called a blow gun).
  • Butterfly knives (aka balisongs) which have a sheath hidden inside a handle which splits in the middle.
  • Disguised knives which may be any bladed instrument or sharp point hidden inside something that appears to be like an everyday object. Typical examples include a brush, a buckle, lipstick, or a phone).
  • Flick knives (aka automatic knives or switchblades) which is a type of dagger hidden inside a handle that shoots out after pressing a button.
  • Gravity knives.
  • Hand or foot-claws.
  • Hollow kubotans which are a cylinder-shaped keychain that holds spikes.
  • Knuckledusters.
  • Kusari (or manrikigusari) which is a weight attached to a cord, a rope, or wire.
  • Kusari-gama which is a sickle attached to a cord, a rope, or wire.
  • Kyoketsu-shoge which is a hook-knife attached to a cord, a rope, or wire.
  • Push daggers.
  • Shurikens (aka death stars, shaken, or throwing stars).
  • Stealth knives which are knives or spikes not made from metal (except those used at home such as for food or part of a toy).
  • Swords (including samurai swords) which have a curved blade over 50cm) There are some exceptions such as antiques and swords made to traditional methods before 1954.
  • Sword-sticks which a hollow walking stick or cane that contains a bladed instrument.
  • Telescopic truncheons which extend automatically after pressing a button or a spring in the handle.
  • Zombie knives which contain a cutting edge, a serrated edge usually with images or words that suggest its use is for violent acts.

Note: The best advice is to contact a local police force if you need to check whether a knife or a weapon is legal or illegal.

Valid Grounds for Carrying a Knife or a Weapon

In some cases, the reason to carry a knife or a weapon in public may be a good one and not breaking any laws on knives. Typical examples would include:

  • Transporting knives that you use at work to and from the actual workplace.
  • Taking the item to a gallery or to a museum in relation to an exhibition.
  • Using it in a demonstration or while teaching someone how to use it.
  • Using it for in film, theatre, television, historical reenactment or for religious purposes (e.g. some Sikhs carry the kirpan).

Note: It would be for a court to determine it as a valid reason (or not) if the police charge you with carrying a knife or a weapon illegally.

Common Questions about Knives Answered by the Police

Is it Illegal to Carry a Knife in Your Pocket?

As a rule, yes it is illegal to carry any sharp or bladed instrument in your pocket while in a public place. The law excludes a folding pocket knife providing the blade is less than 7.62 cm or three (3) inches.

Even so, it is not a total ban. It would be for the person in possession of such an instrument to prove they had a valid reason for possessing it. For example, it could be genuine while fishing or back packing across the Lake District. Thus, it would not be unreasonable to use a sharp knife to prepare a meal.

You would have much more difficulty justifying the possession of a knife on the streets of a city or a town. Even so, there may be occasions when someone has a genuine reason to do so. For example, while going to attend a martial arts sport or a scout meeting (the police would check).

Note: The penalty for committing this type of offence can result in a maximum prison sentence of four (4) years.

Can I Sell Knives from a Shop to Youngsters?

Many shop owners are unaware of the knives age restriction in the United Kingdom. It is illegal to sell knives to anyone if they are under the age of 18. An exception applies in Scotland which allows youngsters from 16 to buy kitchen knives.

Laws for Carrying a Knife in Public in the United KingdomShop owners should note that the general ban includes:

  • All knives.
  • A knife blade.
  • Razor blades.
  • Axe.
  • Any item that has a blade or a sharp point and made or adapted for use for causing injury to a person.

Note: As a retailer, you have a responsibility to ensure your staff comply with the law for selling knives from a shop.

How Can I Dispose of Kitchen Knives Safely?

Putting old or unwanted knives in the bin is not illegal. Even so, it is best to package them is a safe manner to avoid injury to any other persons.

Most rubbish collection operates by a machine since the introduction of wheelie bins. Thus, there is less likelihood of a bin collector getting an injury from a discarded knife.

Tip: You can take all metal knives to a waste disposal site where there will be a skip for the collection of scrap metal.

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Answers to Police Questions about Knives in the United Kingdom