Possession of a bladed article

Possessing a Bladed Article in Public, Possessing a Knife in Public

Possessing a bladed article in a public place is a criminal offence under section 139(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 1988.

If you are accused of possessing a bladed article in a public place, the prosecution must prove that:

  • You were in a public place,
  • You had an item in your possession with a blade or sharp point, and
  • You did not have a good reason or lawful authority for having the item with you.

This offence does not apply to folding knives that have blades shorter than 7.62cm (3 inches), providing they do not have a mechanism to lock the blade in an open position. If the item is a lock knife, it is an offence to have that item in public without a good reason even if the blade is under 3 inches in length.

However, if it is believed that the bladed article was being carried for purposes of self defence, and the circumstances do not qualify as a good reason, the incident will be charged as possession of an offensive weapon.

Commonly, the issue in a case involving possession of a bladed article is whether or not the defendant had a good reason for having the item in their possession in public. There is no fixed definition of what qualifies as a good reason, and it will be a matter for the Court to decide whether or not an explanation is a good reason.

One explanation that is often raised when someone is arrested for having a bladed article in public is that the knife is a tool from their work, and they had forgotten it was in their pocket when they left. Using a knife as part of legitimate employment, for example a chef or carpet fitter, is a good reason. However, in this example a Court would have to consider all the circumstances of the account, and decide whether or not they accept it as a good reason for still having the knife.

Having a bladed article in public is a serious offence, especially due to the public perception of knife crime in gang culture. Sadly there are many situations where knives are used, and the consequences are grave. Because of this, the Courts always consider the circumstances of an offence when sentencing an offender, and prison sentences are likely if the bladed article was brandished in dangerous circumstances.

The offence of having a bladed article in public is an either way offence, meaning that it can be heard by either the Magistrates Court or the Crown Court depending on the seriousness. If the weapon has been used to threaten another, the offence is seen as too serious for the Magistrates Court.

If you, or someone you know, have been accused of possessing a bladed article in public, it is important that you are represented by a specialist criminal defence lawyer who can advise you on the individual elements of your case. Contact us to see if we can recommend an expert criminal defence solicitor or barrister with experience of such serious offences.

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