Knife Crime on the Rise: What are the laws around carrying knives in England?

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Can you carry a pocketknife? Can a Swiss Army Knife be confiscated by the police? Is it illegal to buy a knife from a supermarket? We take a look at new knife laws from a legal perspective to shed some light on the subject.

Knife crime has risen dramatically in the UK, particularly in larger cities across England. Unfortunately a lethal combination of gang violence, drug-related violence and an increase in the number of young people encountering knife crimes has led to a surge in stabbings in neighbourhoods and even schools across the country.

The problem has become so severe that national charity StreetDoctors has begun teaching school children how to treat stab wounds in specialist classes in schools across England. In the sessions, young people are taught how to decrease blood loss in a patient, how to administer chest compressions and how to put a victim into the recovery position. Perhaps crucially, they are also taught about dealing with the emotional repercussions of a knife-related trauma, and role-play the scenarios that could lead up to violence of this kind.

The full reasons behind the rise in knife crime are complex, and are causing friction between political parties. While finding out the triggers is vital to the reduction in knife-related violence, actions have been taken by retailers to try to stop vulnerable people acquiring knives and using them as weapons. Poundland has already stopped the sale of kitchen knives in its shops, and Asda no longer sells single knives – an attempt to reduce the likelihood of young people finding it easy to buy them from their stores.

On a governmental level, Theresa May has promised to increase funding for police by record levels next year to up to £970 million to help curb the problem. This promise comes as Mrs May maintains that a reduction in police numbers are not to blame for the knife crime epidemic, many of her detractors disagree.

Is it illegal to carry a pocketknife?

It is legal to own and carry a pocketknife in the UK if it has a folding blade of 3 inches long (7.62 cm) or shorter.

When is a kitchen knife illegal?

Kitchen knives are not classified as “dangerous weapons”, however it is illegal to use any knife in a “threatening way”. You can be charged and prosecuted for using a kitchen knife in this manner.

It is illegal to carry a knife (even a legal knife) in public without good reason.

What is the penalty for carrying a knife?

The maximum penalty for an adult carrying a knife is 4 years in prison and an unlimited fine. You’ll get a prison sentence if you’re convicted of carrying a knife more than once.

Good reasons for carrying a knife or weapon

In UK law, it is illegal to carry a knife without good reason.

Taken from the .gov website, these are examples of legally-sound reasons to carry a knife in public:

  • Taking knives you use at work to and from work
  • Taking it to a gallery or museum to be exhibited
  • If it’ll be used for theatre, film, television, historical reenactment or religious purposes, for example the kirpan some Sikhs carry
  • If it’ll be used in a demonstration or to teach someone how to use it

A court will decide if you’ve got a good reason to carry a knife or a weapon if you’re charged with carrying it illegally.

How can I find out if the knife I have is legal to own?

You can contact your local police station to check if a knife or weapon is illegal. Click here to find out the contact details for your local station.

Where can I find a list of banned knives and weapons?

On the .gov website there is a comprehensive list of weapons and knives that are banned in the UK. This list is updated regularly and you can find it here.