Selling, buying and carrying knives and weapons
The maximum penalty for an adult carrying a knife or weapon illegally is either 4 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both. You’ll get a prison sentence if you’re convicted of carrying a knife or weapon illegally more than once.
Basic laws on knives and weapons
It’s illegal to use any knife or weapon in a threatening way.
There are different rules for shotguns and firearms.
It’s also illegal to:
- carry most knives or any weapons in public without a ‘good reason’
- sell most knives or any weapons to anyone under the age of 18
The exception to these 2 rules are folding pocketknives that:
- have a cutting edge no longer than 3 inches
- are not lock knives (they do not have a button, spring or catch that you have to use to fold the knife)
In Scotland, you’re allowed to sell 16 and 17 year olds cutlery and kitchen knives.
Good reasons for carrying a knife or weapon in public
If the knife or weapon is not banned, some examples of ‘good reasons’ include using it:
- for your work
- for religious reasons, such as the kirpan some Sikhs carry
- as part of any national costume
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.
If you want advice on what counts as a ‘good reason’, contact your local police or get legal advice.
Banned knives and weapons
If a knife or weapon is listed in the following table, it’s illegal to:
- possess it
- bring it into the UK
- sell or hire it out
- lend or give it to someone
There are some legal exemptions. For example, knives and weapons which are over 100 years old are exempt, except for flick knives. If you want advice on exemptions, contact your local police or get legal advice.
|Knife or weapon type||Description|
|Baton||A straight, side-handled or friction-lock truncheon.|
|Belt buckle knife||A buckle which incorporates or conceals a knife.|
|Blowpipe or blow gun||A hollow tube out of which hard pellets or darts are shot by the use of breath.|
|Butterfly knife or ‘balisong’||A blade enclosed by its handle. Designed to split down the middle to reveal the blade without using a spring or other mechanical means.|
|Cyclone or spiral knife||A blade with a handle, a sharp point at the end and one or more cutting edges that each form a helix.|
|Disguised knife||A blade or sharp point hidden inside something that looks like a commonly carried everyday object. For example, a comb, brush, pen, cigarette lighter, key, lipstick or phone.|
|Flick knife, gravity knife, ‘switchblade’ or ‘automatic knife’||A knife where the blade opens automatically or is released from the handle, either by gravity or by pressing a button or something else on the knife.|
|Footclaw||A bar of metal or other hard material worn strapped to the foot, from which a number of sharp spikes come out.|
|Handclaw||A band of metal or other hard material worn on the hand, from which a number of sharp spikes come out.|
|Hollow kubotan||A cylinder-shaped container containing a number of sharp spikes.|
|Knuckleduster||A band of metal or other hard material that’s worn on one or more fingers and is designed to cause injury. This also includes any weapon that incorporates a knuckleduster.|
|Kusari or ‘manrikigusari’||A hard weight or hand grip fastened to each end of a piece of rope, cord, chain or wire.|
|Kusari gama||A sickle fastened to one end of a piece of rope, cord, chain or wire.|
|Kyoketsu shoge||A hook-knife fastened to one end of a piece of rope, cord, chain or wire.|
|Push dagger||A knife where the handle fits within a clenched fist and the blade comes out from between two fingers.|
|Shuriken, ‘shaken’, ‘death star’ or ‘throwing star’||A hard non-flexible plate with three or more sharp radiating points, designed to be thrown.|
|Stealth knife||A knife or spike made of a material that cannot be picked up by metal detectors and which is not made for use at home, for food or as a toy.|
|Sword||A curved blade of 50 centimetres or over, based on the straight-line distance from the top of the handle to the tip of the blade.|
|Swordstick||A hollow walking stick or cane containing a blade which may be used as a sword.|
|Telescopic truncheon||A truncheon that extends automatically by pressing a button, a spring or other device that’s in or attached to the handle.|
|Zombie knife||A knife with a cutting edge, a serrated edge and images or words suggesting it is used for violence.|
You should contact your local police to check if a knife or weapon is illegal.