Can You Legally Carry A Knife?

Knife crime has been an issue of significant concern and legislation across the UK for decades.

With authorities across the country constantly cracking down on the possession of knives and bladed articles, there is the potential for a lack of clarity regarding situations in which it is legal to carry a knife – if, indeed, it ever is.

In this article, we aim to answer the question: Can you legally carry a knife? DPP Law – a team of expert solicitors who specialise in knife crime – explores this issue and explains a little more about the wider legal landscape relating to knife crime, including the sentencing guidelines for individuals convicted of the illegal possession of a blade.

What is considered a knife crime?

After a peak in 2019/20 – when approximately 54,300 offences involving sharp instruments were recorded across England and Wales – figures dropped slightly, with 44,000 crimes of this kind recorded in 2020/21.

However, in subsequent years, the number has continued to rise, hitting 50,500 in the year concluding in March 2023.

But what is considered a knife crime in UK law? Offences of this kind have a very broad definition. In practice, the term covers absolutely any illegal act that involves a sharp or bladed article, from purchasing a knife when underage to using a knife to attack another individual.

Being caught in possession of a knife is considered a knife crime and, as such, anyone arrested for this offence may face severe penalties.

Can you legally carry a knife in the UK?

While rules on carrying knives or sharp objects are strict, there are situations in which it is legal and permissible to carry a knife. You must always have a good reason or reasonable explanation for your possession of a bladed article. We’ll explore these below.

What is considered a valid reason for carrying a knife in the UK?

If the knife you are carrying is intended for use in your work, and if you are able to prove this, you should not be prosecuted for possession.

Additionally, if you carry a knife for religious reasons or as part of a national costume, such as a Sikh kirpan, it should not be considered an offence.

Furthermore, if you can prove that you have just purchased the knife and are transporting it home or to another suitable location in a sensible manner when you are stopped, you should not be considered to be carrying the knife illegally.

All of the above circumstances can form part of a strong defence if an individual is prosecuted for the unlawful possession of a knife.

When does it become illegal to carry a knife?

There are certain types of knives that are legal to carry. Whether a knife is legal or not depends in part on the length of its blade. So, what is the legal knife length in the UK?

The only knives that are legal to possess in public are pocket knives with cutting edges of 3 inches (7.62 cm) or less in length. They must be folding knives as opposed to lock knives.

Lock knives have springs, catches or buttons that are used to open and close the bladed section of the article.

What are the consequences of carrying a knife illegally in the UK?

If you are found to be carrying a bladed article illegally in the UK, the outcome will depend in part on your criminal history.

The maximum penalty for illegal possession of a knife or other weapon as an adult is a four-year custodial sentence and/or an unlimited fine.

However, due to the “two-strike rule” implemented in 2015 under the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015, following a second conviction of the illegal possession of a knife, adult offenders face a mandatory custodial sentence of at least six months.

A minimum four-month detention and training order will be handed to offenders aged 16-17.

Does the two-strike rule apply to all individuals caught carrying knives?

The aforementioned two-strike rule only applies upon an individual’s second conviction for possession of a knife.

What is the average sentence for carrying a knife?

As of June 2023, the average prison sentence for possession of a blade or point stood at 7.5 months.

What should I do if I have been arrested for illegal possession of a knife?

The first thing you should do if you believe you are going to be prosecuted for possession of a knife, bladed article or any other weapon is to contact the experts at DPP Law immediately.

We have an emergency arrest line (0333 200 5859), which is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

We can help defend you in a court of law and provide you with valuable guidance and advice throughout the legal process, ensuring the best outcome possible.