London has one of the highest rates of knife crime in the country; in May 2019, the controversial Offensive Weapons bill received Royal Assent, bringing into law the Offensive Weapons Act 2019.
London now has the highest rate of knife crime in the country; as recently as June 2021, new London Knife Crime Prevention Orders were trialled by the Metropolitan Police to prevent young people from carrying knives and becoming involved in serious violence.
There are two main offences; possession of a bladed article and possession of an offensive weapon:
A bladed article is anything that has a blade or is sharply pointed, except a folding pocketknife with a cutting edge of less than 3 inches.
This includes kitchen knives, Stanley knives, or work knives. It is an offence to have a knife in public without a good reason or lawful authority.
What amounts to a good reason is quite limited; for example, if you had just bought the knife from a shop and you were taking it straight home, or you needed it for work and you were going to or from your place of work.
Carrying a knife for self-defence is very unlikely to be a good reason, unless there was an immediate threat to you and you had no other option. It is not a good reason when being stopped and searched to say that you live in a dangerous area, and you normally carry it for protection.
Being in possession of a bladed article includes having it in your car, in a bag that you are carrying, or anywhere else that it is under your control.
An offensive weapon is defined as ‘any article made or adapted for use for causing injury, or is intended by the person having it with him for such use’. Some knives, such as zombie knives, have no legitimate purpose, and are seen as being made for causing injury, so are classed as offensive weapons.
The Sentencing Guidelines Council have produced guidelines for knife offences.
The starting point for possession of a bladed article, or a ‘highly dangerous weapon’, which includes zombie knives etc, is 6 months imprisonment, with a range up to 2 years 6 months, although in some circumstances longer sentences can be imposed.
For a second offence, there is a mandatory minimum 6-month sentence, unless it would be unjust in all the circumstances to impose the minimum.
Possession of a knife or offensive weapon when committing other offences, such as robbery or assault, is an aggravating factor in those offences, and will often lead to longer sentences.
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