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 is illegal to:

  • sell a knife to anyone under 18 (16 to 18 year olds in Scotland can buy cutlery and kitchen knives) unless it’s a knife with a folding blade 3 inches long (7.62cm) or less
  • carry a knife in public without good reason - unless it’s a knife with a folding blade 3 inches long (7.62cm) or less
  • carry, buy or sell any type of banned knife
  • use any knife in a threatening way (even a legal knife)

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 is illegal to bring into the UK, sell, hire, lend or give anyone the following:

  • butterfly knives (also known as ‘balisongs’) - a blade hidden inside a handle that splits in the middle
  • disguised knives - a blade or sharp point hidden inside what looks like everyday objects such as a buckle, phone, brush or lipstick
  • flick knives (also known as ‘switchblades’ or ‘automatic knives’) - a blade hidden inside a handle which shoots out when a button is pressed
  • gravity knives
  • stealth knives - a knife or spike not made from metal (except when used at home, for food or a toy)
  • zombie knives - a knife with a cutting edge, a serrated edge and images or words suggesting it is used for violence
  • swords, including samurai swords - a curved blade over 50cm (with some exceptions, such as antiques and swords made to traditional methods before 1954)
  • sword-sticks - a hollow walking stick or cane containing a blade
  • push daggers
  • blowpipes (‘blow gun’)
  • telescopic truncheons - extend automatically by pressing button or spring in the handle
  • batons - straight, side-handled or friction-lock truncheons
  • hollow kubotans - a cylinder-shaped keychain holding spikes
  • shurikens (also known as ‘shaken’, ‘death stars’ or ‘throwing stars’)
  • kusari-gama - a sickle attached to a rope, cord or wire
  • kyoketsu-shoge - a hook-knife attached to a rope, cord or wire
  • kusari (or ‘manrikigusari’) - a weight attached to a rope, cord, wire
  • hand or foot-claws
  • knuckledusters

This is not a complete list of banned knives and weapons. 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.