Selling, buying and carrying knives

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.

Basic laws on knives

It’s illegal to possess a banned knife or weapon. It’s also illegal to:

  • bring into the UK, sell, hire, lend or give someone a banned knife or weapon
  • carry any knife in public without good reason, unless it has a manual folding blade less than 3 inches long
  • sell a knife to anyone under the age of 18, unless it has a manual folding blade less than 3 inches long
  • use any knife in a threatening way

In Scotland, 16 to 18 year olds are allowed to buy cutlery and kitchen knives.

Lock knives

Lock knives are not classed as folding knives and are illegal to carry in public without good reason.

Lock knives:

  • have blades that can be locked and refolded only by pressing a button
  • can include multi-tool knives - tools that also contain other devices such as a screwdriver or can opener

Banned knives and weapons

It’s illegal to bring into the UK, possess, sell, hire, lend or give someone a banned knife, unless a legal exemption applies.

Knife type Description
Butterfly knives Also known as ‘balisongs’. A handle that splits in the middle to reveal a blade.
Disguised knives A blade or sharp point hidden inside something that looks like an everyday object such as a buckle, phone, brush or lipstick.
Flick knives or gravity knives Also known as ‘switchblades’ or ‘automatic knives’. Folding knives where the blade opens automatically, by gravity or by pressing a button or something else on the knife.
Stealth knives Non metal knives or spikes which are not made for use at home, for food or as a toy.
Zombie knives A knife with a cutting edge, a serrated edge and images or words suggesting it is used for violence.
Swords A curved blade over 50 centimetres, with some exceptions such as antiques, swords made to traditional methods, or swords made before 1954.
Swordstick A hollow walking stick or cane containing a blade.
Push dagger A knife where the handle fits within a clenched fist and the blade comes out from between two fingers.
Blowpipes Sometimes known as ‘blow guns’. A hollow tube out of which hard pellets or darts are shot by the use of breath.
Telescopic truncheons A knife that extends automatically, or by pressing a button or spring that is in or attached to the handle.
Batons Straight, side-handled or friction-lock truncheons.
Hollow kubotan A cylinder-shaped container containing a number of sharp spikes
Shurikens Also known as ‘shaken’, ‘death stars’ or ‘throwing stars’. A hard non-flexible plate with three or more sharp radiating points, designed to be thrown.
Kusari gama A sickle attached to a rope, cord, chain or wire.
Kyoketsu shoge A hook-knife attached to a rope, cord, chain or wire.
Kusari or ‘manrikigusari’ A weight or hand grip attached to a rope, cord, chain or wire.
Handclaws A band of metal or other hard material worn on the hand, from which sharp spikes come out.
Footclaws A bar of metal or other hard material worn on the foot, from which a number of sharp spikes come out.
Knuckle dusters A band of metal or other hard material worn on one or more fingers.
Cyclone or spiral knives A blade with one or more cutting edges that form a spiral and come to a point.
Belt buckle knife A buckle which incorporates or conceals a knife.

You should contact your local police to check if a knife or weapon is illegal.

Good reasons for carrying a knife or weapon

Examples of good reasons to carry a knife or weapon in public can include:

  • 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.