New UK legislation on knives

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Chris Bolton
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New UK legislation on knives

Post by Chris Bolton » Thu Jul 19, 2018 10:29 pm

The Offensive Weapons Bill is currently going through Parliament. Among other things, it includes new restrictions on the sale and possession of knives, which could significantly affect us as paddlers.

Section 15 makes it illegal to sell a knife for delivery to a home address or parcel locker. In other words, it must be handed over face to face. This is because (entirely reasonably) they want to reduce the number of kids carrying knives as weapons and there's concern that sellers are not verifying whether purchasers are over 18. So rather than enforce existing law the proposal (entirely unreasonably) is to ban anyone buying any kind of knife online or by mail order. There's a Petition you can sign if you object to this, but see below.

Section 16 includes a defence that the knife was intended for "sporting purposes". That looks helpful to us, except that sporting purposes are defined as being combat sports only. It seems to be assumed that knives are only needed as weapons.

Section 19 redefines a 'flick knife'. The previous definition had a button on the handle to release the blade, the new one includes a button or device anywhere - so it could include a diving knife that has a button to release it from the sheath, or a folding knife with a stud on the blade to allow one-handed opening. It also makes possession of one illegal, whereas previously it was only illegal to sell them or pass them to others - so if you had one, you could legal keep it. Both the knives I carry as safety gear will probably become illegal to own (unlike the law on carrying knives in public there is nothing in this section about 'reasonable excuse'.)

Do sign the petition, but it only objects to s15, and the Government will probably avoid doing anything anyway (they have just issued a response which effectively ignores the point).
If you want to put more weight behind your objection, or you think the 'sporting purposes' defence in s16 should be widened to include safety knives in outdoor sports, or you're concerned about s19, please write to your MP. You could also make a written submission to the Public Bill Committee which is now considering the detailed text. If your MP is on the Committee writing to them could be really useful.

andynormancx
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Re: New UK legislation on knives

Post by andynormancx » Fri Jul 20, 2018 7:51 am

My reading of section 19 wouldn't cover knives with a stud on the blade. The key words are:

"any knife which has a blade which opens automatically"

and

"by manual pressure applied to a button, spring or other device
in or attached to the knife"

I can't see how moving the knife blade out with your thumb using a stud on the blade can in anyway be considered "automatic" rather than "manual".

Though I'm not looking forward to arguing that with someone in authority if it comes down to it :(

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Re: New UK legislation on knives

Post by andynormancx » Fri Jul 20, 2018 8:09 am

But thanks for the kick up the arse, I've started writing up my written submission...

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Re: New UK legislation on knives

Post by andynormancx » Fri Jul 20, 2018 8:17 am

I'd certainly read it as making possession of my NRS Co-pilot knife an offense though.

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Re: New UK legislation on knives

Post by TheEcho » Fri Jul 20, 2018 2:42 pm

I don’t see that “a blade which opens automatically” can be applied to a fixed blade knife like the Co Pilot. Opening a blade is different from removing the entire knife from its sheath.

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Re: New UK legislation on knives

Post by andynormancx » Fri Jul 20, 2018 2:49 pm

On re-reading, I think you are right about the Co Pilot.

Chris Bolton
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Re: New UK legislation on knives

Post by Chris Bolton » Fri Jul 20, 2018 5:54 pm

the wording is not very clear, as andynormancx says:
"any knife which has a blade which opens automatically"
and
"by manual pressure applied to a button, spring or other device
in or attached to the knife"
That, to me, is a contradiction - if it requires manual pressure, it's not automatic. So what does it mean? My knife opens if apply manual pressure on a "button or other device" attached to the knife - and since I don't know what the word "automatic" is intended to mean, I don't want to have to argue it in court. I've pointed out the ambiguity in my submission.

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Re: New UK legislation on knives

Post by Allan Olesen » Mon Jul 23, 2018 8:54 am

We have had a similar legislation in Denmark for a few years now, resulting in some strange verdicts. Not only is it forbidden to carry certain types of knives on your person - it is also forbidden to have them in your car if the car is in a public place.

One person was sentenced for having a normal box cutter knife in his car. The reasoning was that a box cutter knife can be operated with one hand, and the blade can be locked in place, so it fulfils the Danish law's description of an automatic knife.

So you can look forward to a lot of joy with this new law if it is like ours.

One thing which puzzles me: Doesn't your law have an exception for boy and girl scouts? Our law does. They are allowed to carry big knives, but of course not automatic knives.

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Re: New UK legislation on knives

Post by Chris Bolton » Mon Jul 23, 2018 8:15 pm

Allan, you can carry a fixed blade knife in public in the UK if you have legal authority or "reasonable excuse". The law doesn't specific what that means, it's left to case law, or precedent. That means that in order to find out what the law means, somebody has to be prosecuted - bad luck for them if it doesn't mean what they thought it did.

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Re: New UK legislation on knives

Post by Rainshine » Mon Jul 23, 2018 11:01 pm

The definition used in the draft legislation is a pretty standard, internationally recognised definition for a flick-knife or switch-blade. It won't include rescue knives which pull out of a holster or sheath and it won't include a rescue knife where one has to press a button or depress part of the handle to allow the blade to then be pulled out of the side of the handle.

There isn't a contradiction in the 'manual' and 'automatic' wording. The 'automatic' part refers only to the ejection of the blade (either forwards or sideways) and the 'manual' part applies only to the pressure you have to put on a button, spring or other device which then forces the blade out (ie without you having to physically pull it out of the handle). Most rescue knives on the market used by kayakers won't be affected by this proposed definition.

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Re: New UK legislation on knives

Post by Chris Bolton » Tue Jul 24, 2018 7:25 am

Rainshine, can you quote a source for that interpretation of the words, please? Reading the draft and the accompanying explanation, I can only take the literal meaning from the words.There can't be a test case in UK law as they words aren't law yet, but I know there are links to Commonwealth law.

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Re: New UK legislation on knives

Post by Phizz4 » Tue Jul 24, 2018 11:37 am

I have brought this to the notice of UK Scouting and await their response. Talking about this to a policeman friend last night he said that, as it stands, blades of less than 3 inches aren't a problem (Swiss Army knives all fit this category I believe), that the new legislation is aimed more at curbing or reducing access to the purchase of flick knives (and similar), especially mail order. As stated above, one of the key points is 'reasonable excuse'. If a box cutter knife becomes illegal most of the builder's van's will have illegal knives in them, which they obviously aren't, hence the 'reasonable cause' clause. A Scout walking to his group meeting, in uniform, carrying his sheath knife would be OK. The same Scout walking into town to meet his mates in the park wouldn't.

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Re: New UK legislation on knives

Post by Chris Bolton » Tue Jul 24, 2018 12:10 pm

As stated above, one of the key points is 'reasonable excuse'. If a box cutter knife becomes illegal most of the builder's van's will have illegal knives in them, which they obviously aren't, hence the 'reasonable cause' clause. A Scout walking to his group meeting, in uniform, carrying his sheath knife would be OK. The same Scout walking into town to meet his mates in the park wouldn't.
That's the current law (and, apologies if I'm wrong, your interpretation - ie, I'm not aware of any test case involving Scouts?). The proposed new definition of a flick knife does not have a "reasonable excuse" defence - simply possessing one will be an offence.

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Re: New UK legislation on knives

Post by MikeB » Wed Jul 25, 2018 11:54 am

Allan Olesen wrote:
Mon Jul 23, 2018 8:54 am


One thing which puzzles me: Doesn't your law have an exception for boy and girl scouts? Our law does. They are allowed to carry big knives, but of course not automatic knives.
I may stand to be corrected on this, and my Scouting days finished in or about 2000, but there was certainly no exception for Scouts then. In fact, the carrying of sheath knives was very much discouraged. And most certainly not encouraged in public, even in uniform, going to a meeting.

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Re: New UK legislation on knives

Post by Phizz4 » Wed Jul 25, 2018 3:45 pm

I was trying to give an example of the 'just cause' situation. As far as I am aware the Scout Association do not actively encourage the carrying of sheath knives in public. Here is their current policy/advice.

Knives should be considered as a tool and treated as such. Those who are going to use them should get training for their use, as you would for a saw or an axe. Knives are an offensive weapon so great care should be taken when dealing with them. When undertaking training at the Scout HQ, knives should be taken to and from Scouts by an adult. When taking a knife to camp, they should be securely stowed in the middle of the rucksack or bag.

If you consider a knife as a tool, then you should use the appropriate tool for the job. The vast majority of Scout use will only require the use of a pen or clasp knife, the cutting of string, cooking or whittling. Where you have a larger task, such as splitting wood, a larger knife such as a sheath knife may be appropriate. If you relate this to axes, you would not use a hand axe to fell a tree, nor a felling axe to split wood.

There is an issue with regard to clasp knives and lock knives. A lock knife is one where the blade stays open unless some mechanism is used to close the blade. In the eyes of the Law, this is more of an offensive weapon than a standard clasp knife because of this multiple action. From a safety point of view, a lock knife can not fold onto the users fingers and may be better.

The carriage of knives is also to be considered. If a knife is considered as a tool, you would only really carry the knife when there is an expectation to use the tool, after all, you wouldn't carry an axe around a campsite on the off chance of coming across some wood to chop. Therefore, knives when not being used should be stowed away until such time as they are needed. Legally, you are not allowed to carry a knife in a public place without lawful authority or reasonable excuse. A campsite, which may technically be private property as it is owned by a District or County, is considered as public property because of its use. Knives should not be carried unless they are going to be used, and should be put away when not in use.

According to my police officer friend, if I have a rescue knife (fixed blade or folding blade- but not a 'flick knife) in my car, on my PFD, travelling to or from a paddle, I have reasonable excuse. My friend was a chef before he became a policeman and was once stopped, by the police, carrying several very large knifes walking through town. He had 'reasonable excuse' as he was a chef on the way to work. He does not see the new legislation changing this situation but the government may see otherwise.

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Re: New UK legislation on knives

Post by Sheepskin » Wed Sep 26, 2018 8:05 am

To add to the confusion, multi-tools with a lockable blade are capable of being classed as a offensive weapon, I have personal experience as that is what a nephew was charged with ( a young mixed race lad that has a comes from a family that climbs and kayaks, someone that fixes stuff constantly gets a not particularly fancy Gerber for his 21st, gets stopped coming home from climbing wall searched and ends up being arrested, a peaceful lad is Ry but dark skinned and lives in London) we just need more police not legislation

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Re: New UK legislation on knives

Post by Allan Olesen » Wed Sep 26, 2018 5:30 pm

Sorry to hear that. We had similar experience with multi-tools and box cutters when we got a similar law here in Denmark a few years ago. A young man (also dark skinned) was stopped by the police in his car, and they found a box cutter in the car. He first faced 7 days in jail, but due to a sane judge willfully ignoring the minimum punishment dictated by the law, he got off with "only" a huge fine.

One of the more amusing consequences of our law was that the police had to stop carrying multi-tools. They were allowed to carry a pistol, but not a multi-tool...

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