Knife crime and other offensive weapons
It's a crime to threaten someone with a knife or carry a knife as a weapon in a public place. Police can search you if they think you're carrying a knife. Some knives and harmful substances are offensive weapons and are banned in public places.
What counts as knife crime
Knife crime includes:
- carrying a knife or trying to buy one if you’re under 18
- threatening someone with a knife
- carrying a knife that's banned
- a murder where the victim was stabbed with a knife
- a robbery or burglary where a thief carried a knife as a weapon
An offensive weapon is:
- an article designed to cause injury to another person
- an article carried with the intention of causing injury to another person
- a harmful substance that can burn human skin
Penalties for knife crime
The law on knives says:
- it is illegal for anyone, including a shop, to sell a knife of any kind (including cutlery and kitchen knives) to anyone under the age of 18
- if you’re under 18, it’s illegal to buy most types of knives
- anyone over 10 can be charged and taken to court if they’re caught with an illegal knife – even if it’s the first time they’ve been stopped by the police
- if you're caught carrying a knife, you could receive a community sentence, a fine or imprisoned
- you could be searched at any time if a police officer thinks you may be carrying a knife
- even if you’re carrying a knife that you’re legally allowed to (like a penknife with a blade that’s shorter than three inches), it becomes illegal if you use it as a weapon to threaten or harm anyone
The maximum sentence for carrying a knife illegally is four years in prison and an unlimited fine. If you injure someone or use a knife to commit a crime, the penalties could increase.
Carrying a knife
It's an offence to carry a knife or an offensive weapon in a public place without a good reason.
You could be prosecuted for carrying an article that could injure someone. If convicted, you could be imprisoned and fined.
Banned knives and offensive weapons
There is a complete ban on the sale of offensive weapons and certain knives, including:
- flick knives - where the blade is hidden inside the handle and shoots out when a button is pressed - these are also called switchblades or automatic knives
- butterfly knives - where the blade is hidden inside a handle that splits in two around it, like wings or the handles swing around the blade to open or close it
- disguised knives - where the blade is hidden inside something, like a belt buckle or fake mobile phone
- push daggers
- gravity knives
- 'airport' or stealth knives
- samurai swords
- blowpipes or guns
- kubotan (cylindrical container holding spikes)
- shuriken (also known as death stars or throwing stars)
- telescopic truncheons (automatically extending)
- 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)
- straight, side handled or friction-lock truncheons
Corrosive substances are harmful substances or liquids that can burn and damage human skin.
It is against the law for you to have a corrosive substance in a public place. This includes corrosives poured into a container or bottle.
Types of corrosives that are against the law to have in a public place include strong drain cleaners and unblockers, brick and patio cleaners, paint strippers and industrial cleaning agents which are strong enough to burn human skin.
Some people may carry these types of substances in public for a good reason, like trades people. This is allowed.
Common household cleaning products like household bleach, or normal cleaners or liquids which are not strong enough to burn human skin are not against the law to have in a public place.
Penalties for having a corrosive substance in public
The maximum penalty could range from six months in prison to four years, to a fine of up to £5,000, or both depending on the seriousness of the offence.
Stop and search
Police officers have the right to stop and search any person or vehicle if they suspect an offence. This includes illegally carrying a knife or offensive weapon.
Helping to stop knife crime
If you have a knife and want to get rid of it, you can talk to an adult who you trust. They’ll be able to help you find the best way to dispose of it.
If you have information about knife crime in your area and you're nervous about going to the police, you can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. They will never ask for your name or try to trace the number that you're calling from.