Knife Legislation - United Kingdom - Prevention of Crime Act 1953

The Prevention of Crime Act 1953 prohibits the possession in any public place of an offensive weapon without lawful authority or reasonable excuse. The term "offensive weapon" is defined 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".

Under the Prevention of Crime Act, otherwise 'exempt' knives carried for "good reason or lawful authority" may be still deemed illegal if authorities conclude the knife is being carried as an "offensive weapon". In recent years, the Prevention of Crime Act 1953 has been reinterpreted by police and public prosecutors, who have persuaded the courts to minimize exceptions to prosecution on the grounds that the defendant had "lawful authority or reasonable excuse" in order to apply the Act to a wide variety of cases. This new approach now includes prosecution of citizens who have admitted carrying a knife for the sole purpose of self-defence (in the eyes of the law, this is presently viewed as an admission that the defendant intends to use the knife as an "offensive weapon", albeit in a defensive manner, and in otherwise justifiable circumstances). While the onus lies on the officer to prove offensive intent, UK prosecutors and courts have in the past taken the appearance and the marketing of a particular brand of knife into account when considering whether an otherwise legal knife was being carried as an offensive weapon. In addition, the Knives Act 1997 now prohibits the sale of combat knives and restricts the marketing of knives as offensive weapons. A knife which is marketed as "tactical", "military", "special ops", etc. could therefore carry an extra liability. Even when the knife in question appears relatively innocuous (blade length not exceeding three inches, non-locking blade), there is the perception that anyone carrying a knife in a public place is well advised to take steps to place the knife in question out of their immediate control, i.e. storing the knife when on foot or when using public transit in the bottom of a rucksack, not on the belt, in the pocket, or around the neck, and while traveling in a privately-owned motor vehicle, by placing the knife in locked storage in the vehicle boot, not in the glove compartment or in the seating area.

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