Knives and the Law

Knives and the law

Just by carrying a knife you could end up in court. It is illegal to carry a knife, even if it belongs to somebody else and if you are caught you will be arrested.

Anyone who is carrying a knife and is intending to use it as a weapon – even in self-defence - can be arrested, go to court and receive a police record or even a prison sentence of up to 4 years.

The police can search anyone they suspect of carrying a knife.

Some people say that they carry a knife for protection or to make them feel safer, even though they wouldn’t think of using it. However, research has shown that you’re actually more likely to become a victim of crime if you carry a knife.

The maximum prison sentence for carrying a knife is four years, but if you use the knife in a crime or to injure someone the penalties are a lot worse. Under 'joint enterprise' rules, prosecutors also have the power to bring before the courts people who were present when a crime was committed so that all face the same serious charges. 


It is illegal to:

  • sell a knife of any kind to anyone under 18 years old, unless it has a folding blade 3 inches long (7.62 cm) or less. 

  • carry a knife in public without good reason - unless it’s a knife with a folding blade 3 inches long (7.62 cm) or less, e.g. a Swiss Army knife (a "lock knife" does not come into the category of "folding pocket knife" because it is not immediately foldable at all times)

  • carry, buy or sell any type of banned knife

  • use any knife in a threatening way (including a legal knife, such as a Swiss Army knife)

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

Good reasons for carrying a knife

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

  • taking knives you use at work to and from work

  • taking knives to a gallery or museum to be exhibited

  • the knife is going to be used for theatre, film, television, historical reenactment or religious purposes, e.g. the kirpan some Sikhs carry

A court will decide if you’ve got a good reason to carry a knife if you’re charged with carrying it illegally.

Banned knives

Examples of knives that are completely banned are:

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 us to check if a knife or weapon is illegal.

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