Two-Strike Rule Explained

Over the last decade, knife crime in the UK has seen a 17% increase. In order to crack down on offences of this kind, the government has put stronger measures in place with the intention of enabling the authorities to more effectively prosecute individuals caught in possession of bladed items.

In this article, the team at DPP Law – solicitors who specialise in the two-strike rule – explains a little more about this legislation and how it may affect individuals accused of breaching the rule.

What is the two-strike rule and when was it introduced?

First coming into effect in 2015, individuals charged in breach of the two-strike rule for carrying a knife face an automatic six-month custodial sentence.

This means that, following their second conviction, anyone over the age of 18 may face a minimum of six months in prison for further related offences.

Can young offenders be charged with the two-strike sentence?

Yes – individuals aged 16 or 17 still face legal action under the two-strike rule. In cases of this kind, the legislation states that offenders may be handed a minimum four-month detention and training order.

What constitutes a “strike” under the two-strike rule?

The two-strike rule with a knife refers to mandatory sentencing that comes into effect upon a second offence of possession of a knife or offensive weapon. It only comes into play upon conviction – not upon arrest or upon charges being brought.

Further details of the legislation can be found in the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015.

What are the penalties for a second strike under the two-strike rule?

A 6-month custodial sentence is the minimum penalty for adults convicted of possession of a knife following two previous convictions of the same offence – but what is the maximum length for a two-strike sentence?

Under current legislation, those found guilty may face prison terms of up to four years.

How effective has the two-strike rule been in reducing knife crime?

Year-end figures in 2023 revealed a 2% decrease in all offences related to knife crime. However, this is not necessarily attributable to the introduction of the two-strike rule.

According to the Independent, Ministry of Justice data relating to the year ending September 2023 revealed that almost four in ten adults caught carrying a knife two times or more did not receive an immediate custodial sentence.

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

The two-strike rule only applies to those who have been proven to be carrying a bladed article illegally on at least two occasions, and who have been tried and convicted for the offence both times.

Is carrying a knife in public always a crime?

While the two-strike rule relates to the offence of possession of a blade, individuals stopped by the police for carrying a knife or a similar article will not necessarily face the penalties laid out in this legislation.

For a start, carrying a bladed article in public is not necessarily an offence. This depends on the type of item you are carrying and whether or not you have a reasonable excuse for carrying it.

If the knife that you are carrying is not a folding pocket knife rather than a lock knife, and if its cutting edge is no longer than 3 inches (7.62cm), you will not be committing an offence by carrying it with you in a public place.

What’s more, if you are able to prove that you had a good reason or “reasonable excuse” for carrying a bladed article, you will not be prosecuted.

These reasons may include the fact that you need to have a knife or blade on your person to use as part of your work, that you have only just purchased it and are transporting it home or to your place of work, or that the item forms part of a national costume or is being carried for religious reasons.

What to do if you have been accused of – or arrested for – illegal possession of a knife

Upon being accused of or arrested for knife-crime-related offences, the first step you must take is to get in touch with a solicitor with a strong track record in representing clients facing similar charges.

DPP Law has been representing individuals accused of weapons offences for more than thirty years and can advise you throughout the legal process, helping you to gather evidence of your innocence.

Our legal specialists can also accompany you to police interviews and build as strong a defence as possible in order to represent you in a court of law.

For more information about the services offered by DPP Law, or to instruct one of our highly qualified solicitors, simply get in touch with our knowledgeable team today.