A word on UK knife legislation.

A word on UK knife legislation.

Knives and Legislation:

I am by no means a legal expert, so of course, this section doesn't constitute legal advice. However, I've done my best to compile the laws and believe that they are accurate at the time of publishing. Please seek legal advice from a registered legal professional if you're unsure. 

Without resorting to copy and pasting the data available on the gov website, the basic laws stand as follows:

  • It's illegal to sell a knife to anyone under the age of 18.
  • You cannot buy or sell any knives on the banned knives list - more to follow. 
  • It's also illegal to use any knife (or in fact, any object) in a threatening way. This includes the UK legal subsection of knives, which I'll expand on below. 
  • Finally, it's also illegal to carry a knife in public without a specific, and valid reason. There are some exceptions. Read on. 

Most laws regarding knives are common sense. Some of the less known information revolved around what we term as UK legal carry. That is to say, a category of knives that you're allowed to carry in public, without relying on the 'good reason' defence. 

In short, it IS legal to carry certain knives in public, these knives must meet the following:

  • Have a blade length of LESS than three inches / 7.62cm. 
  • Not lock into place when opened. 
  • Fold readily at all times. (Mind your fingers!)
  • Must not be on the banned knives list. 

For example, you could carry a knife with a 2.5" folding blade, that does not lock into place when opened such that it can fold away at any time. If your knife locks open or is longer than 3", it cannot be carried without reason. There are some circumstances where you can carry a locking or longer bladed knife, I'll cover this further down. 

The legal-to-carry or as we'll call them from here on 'EDC' (Every Day Carry) knives may be carried on your person, without needing a 'good reason'. There are a couple of exceptions, which includes on school grounds, higher education facilities, prisons and certain other places. 

There are a number of good reasons for wanting to carry an EDC knife, and because of this piece of legislation, you are able to within reason. 

The 'Good Reason' Defence:

In regard to knives longer than three inches, knives that lock open, or knives that have no folding function such as fixed blades/sheath knives. There are certain circumstances where it is / can be permitted to carry with you in public. This is known as reasonable use; if there is a GOOD reason for you to have such a knife with you, you are actually allowed to carry it. 

Some examples of reasonable use include, but aren't limited to; fishing, camping, hunting (in legal areas with permission) and work use. For example, if you're going camping and will need a knife or axe to perform general outdoor camp craft, and you're camping legally, you could consider that a good reason to have it with you. Be aware though, that ultimately a good reason would be decided by the court, so it's always best to double-check with a lawyer before taking such a knife with you. Which is why I always recommend an EDC knife over nearly anything else, despite myself selling predominantly fixed blade knives!

The Banned Knives List:

So far we know about EDC knives and the reasonable use clause of UK legislation. This next section covers knives that are, in all circumstances, illegal. 

Here is a non-exhaustive list of knives on the banned list: 

  • flick knives (also called ‘switchblades’ or ‘automatic knives’) - where the blade is hidden inside the handle and shoots out when a button is pressed
  • 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, eg where the blade is hidden inside a belt buckle or fake mobile phone
  • gravity knives
  • sword-sticks
  • samurai swords (with some exceptions, including antiques and swords made to traditional methods before 1954)
  • hand or foot-claws
  • push daggers
  • hollow kubotan (cylinder-shaped keychain) holding spikes
  • shuriken (also known as ‘death stars’ or ‘throwing stars’)
  • 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)

All the knives on this list, plus a few more are illegal to buy, sell and have with you in public for any reason. Presently it is legal to own them, but not share, trade, giveaway or change ownership of. I say presently because a new law that's been granted Royal Assent is about to change this, making even ownership and 'grandfathering' illegal. So, avoid them. It's not worth the hassle or the black mark against your name. 

Spring Assisted / Ball Bearing Knives:

Finally, we have spring assisted knives and bearing folders. The former are knives that aren't quite flick knives but are not entirely manual opening either. The latter are similar to spring assisted knives, but different too, I'll explain the differences below.

Spring Assisted knives have a coiled spring in the handle, as the blade is partially opened, the spring in the handle takes over and will 'flick' the blade open into the locked position. These aren't included in the flick knife ban as that specifically states an illegal knife would have a button or switch on the handle of the knife. Spring-assisted knives don't, most often, the way to open the knife would be via a thumb stud or blade flipper. 

Ball Bearing knives don't have any springs, they simply have a set of ball bearings nested around the pivot point of the blade. Such that when you apply pressure to the opening mechanism, the smooth rolling action of the bearings allows the blade to open. These are often more expensive, and in a lot of cases significantly more expensive. 

The new legislation that's coming soon doesn't state what will happen to ball bearing knives because unfortunately, our policymakers don't really understand the intricacies. However, we do know that soon, spring assisted knives will be made illegal to own, buy and sell. 

A final word on shipping knives:

It's illegal to sell knives to under 18's as we know, so before any knife purchased remotely can be shipped, there must be an age verification process. This has worked perfectly for many years, yet policymakers have decided to change this as well. 

Soon, it'll be required that an age-verified signature on delivery will be needed before the packaged knife can be handed over. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing, it is largely unnecessary. It's worth thinking about, as it will mean an increased cost for knife retailers and an increased inconvenience for law-abiding civilians. 

I hope this has helped to clear things up for a lot of you. 
If you do have any questions, don't hesitate to drop me an email and I'll do my best to help!

Paul