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It is an offence to possess certain weapons in private unless a defence applies, please see the table below for a full list of these weapons:
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, swords made before 1954, certain religious reasons or for the purposes of an organisation holding a historical activity or sporting activity for which public insurance liability is held.
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.
Defences for possession in private include:
  • the weapon is of historical importance
  • the weapon is an antique (manufactured more than 100 years ago)
  • in their capacity as the operator of, or as a person acting on behalf of, a museum or gallery
  • educational purposes
  • theatrical performances and rehearsals, the production of films and television programmes
  • conduct carried out on behalf of the Crown or of a visiting force
Whether a defence applies will be judged on a case by case basis and will ultimately be a matter for a court to decide.
If you are unsure whether an item in your possession is illegal or you wish to surrender a weapon, you should contact your local police force. 
Please also see the links below which provide information on the law relating to possession of knives and offensive weapons in public places:


It is an offence to carry any sharp or bladed instrument in a public place, with the exception of a folding pocket knife where the cutting edge of the blade is 7.62 cm (3 inches) or less. Please note that the term ‘cutting edge’ is not limited to an area of the blade that has a textured or serrated edge. The courts have held that the whole length of the side of the blade is to be included in the measurement.

A lock knife is not a folding pocket knife and therefore it is an offence to carry around such a knife regardless of the length of the blade, if you do not have good reason. A lock knife has blades that can be locked and refolded only by pressing a button. A lock knife has a mechanism which locks the blade in position when fully extended, the blade cannot be closed without that mechanism being released. A lock knife is not an offensive weapon per se, as these knives were made with a specific purpose in mind were not intended as a weapon. However, possession of a lock knife in a public place without good reason is an offence.

Possession of a multi-tool incorporating a prohibited blade or pointed article is capable of being an offence under this section even if there are other tools on the instrument, which may be of use to a person in a public place, for example a screwdriver or a can opener. It is for the person to prove on the balance of probabilities that they have a good reason for possession.

The ban is not total, it is for the person in possession of such an instrument to prove on the balance of probabilities that they had good reason for its possession. It will have to be genuine, for example, someone back packing across the Lake District may reasonably be expected to have a knife for the preparation of meals. It will be far more difficult to justify on the streets of a city or town, but there will be occasions when someone is genuinely going to a martial arts sport or scout meeting which is easily checked.

The penalty for committing this offence is a maximum prison sentence of four years.

Be aware that some bladed articles may be deemed to be offensive weapons, for example, flick knives, daggers and butterfly knives. There is also an offence of carrying an offensive weapon in public without lawful authority or reasonable excuse. Please see Q338 for further information.


There are three categories of offensive weapons:

1. Items that are made for the purpose of causing injury and have no other practical purpose in the normal world (and are offensive weapons per se) -

  • Examples are flick knives, daggers, knuckledusters , butterfly knives, sword sticks, truncheons , and bayonets.

2. Items that are adapted or altered in some way for the purpose of causing injury -

  • Examples are sharpened screwdrivers, smashing a bottle to make the broken end into a weapon for causing injury, or stout dowelling with Stanley blades in the end.

3. Items that are not specifically made or adapted to cause injury but are carried for that purpose -

  • Examples are a hammer, cricket ball, baseball bat, scissors, razor, a stone, pick axe handle etc.

Almost any item can be considered to be an offensive weapon if the person carrying the item intends to use it to cause injury.

Whether an item is an offensive weapon is a question of facts for a jury, based on the full facts of the case.

It is an offence for any person who without lawful authority or reasonable excuse has with them in any public place, any offensive weapon. It is also an offence to possess (including in private) any offensive weapon as outlined in category 1, i.e. those that are made for the purpose of causing injury.

Where a particular knife is not deemed to be an offensive weapon, be aware that there is also a specific offence of having a bladed article in a public place. Please see Q337 for further information.


You can put the knives in your bin. It is advisable to ensure that they are packaged securely so as not to cause injury to any persons.

With the introduction of wheelie bins everything is done by machine so that likelihood of injury has been vastly reduced. However it is still advisable to package the knives securely just in case.

All metal knives can be taken to your local waste disposal site where there will be a skip for scrap metal.


It is illegal to sell knives to anyone under the age of 18. Note: In Scotland there is an exception allowing people who are 16 years old or over to buy kitchen knives.

The general ban includes any knife, knife blade, razor blade or axe and includes any other article which has a blade or which is sharply pointed and which is made or adapted for use for causing injury to the person.

There are a number of things you can do to ensure you and your staff are complying with the law and there is a useful Home Office leaflet. Please see the links in Related Information to view the leaflet and the voluntary agreement by retailers.

Contact your local police force

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