What are the charges under the Offensive Weapons Act?

There are two main offences; possession of a bladed article and possession of an offensive weapon.

What is an offensive weapon?

According to Section One of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953, an offensive weapon is defined as:

“Any article made or adapted for use to causing injury to the person, or intended by the person having it with him for such use.”

Under UK law, offensive weapons are categorized into three groups:

  • Items manufactured with the purpose of inflicting harm or injury on another person, including various types of knives, truncheons and nun chucks.
  • Objects modified or altered from their original form for the purpose of causing harm, such as a snooker ball in a sock or smashing a bottle to make the broken end into a weapon.
  • Objects that are not specifically made or adapted to cause harm or injury to another individual, like a baseball bat or a pair of scissors.

If an individual is discovered in possession of an offensive weapon classified under the first two categories, the prosecution is not obligated to demonstrate that the defendant intended to utilize the weapon for causing harm or injury.

However, to establish the third category, the prosecution must provide evidence of an intention to cause actual injury. Mere intimidation or scare tactics are insufficient; the prosecution must establish an intent to inflict physical harm. Therefore, simply brandishing an item would not be considered adequate evidence in itself.

What are bladed articles?

A bladed article encompasses any item that possesses a blade or a sharp point, excluding a folding pocketknife with a cutting edge of less than 3 inches. This definition encompasses items like kitchen knives, Stanley knives, or work knives. Possessing a knife in public without a valid reason or lawful authorisation is considered an offence.

The criteria for what constitutes a valid reason are quite restricted. Requiring it for employment purposes while traveling to or from work, may qualify as a valid reasons. Another example would be, having just purchased the knife from a store transporting it directly home.

Carrying a knife for self-defence is highly unlikely to be deemed a valid reason, unless there is an immediate threat and no other recourse is available. Simply residing in a dangerous area and carrying a knife for protection does not constitute a valid reason.

Being in possession of a bladed article includes having it in your vehicle, in a bag you are carrying, or in any other location where it is under your control.

What are the sentencing guidelines for Offensive Weapons charges?

These guidelines are for the possession of either an offensive weapon or bladed article. It does not address scenarios where a knife or another weapon is employed to inflict harm on someone. These instances fall under separate offenses, such as assault, murder, or manslaughter and become a mitigating factor. Similarly, it does not encompass the use or possession of firearms, which are regulated by distinct legislation.

The maximum custodial sentence is 4 years and the length will depend on whether it is a Category 1 or 2 offence. Category 1 offences are where it takes place at certain institutions such as a school or prison. It also includes offences that causes serious alarm/distress or where there is a risk of serious disorder. All other instances will fall in to Category 2 offences.

The second criteria for sentencing is the level of Culpability. This falls in to 4 sections

  • Possession of a bladed article
  • Possession of a highly dangerous weapon (The Guideline defines it as a weapon, including a corrosive substance (such as acid), whose dangerous nature must be substantially above and beyond the definition in the Prevention of Crime Act).
  • Offence motivated by, or demonstrating hostility based on any of the following characteristics or presumed characteristics of the victim: religion, race, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity
  • Possession of weapon (other than a bladed article or a highly dangerous weapon) – used to threaten or cause fear
  • Possession of weapon (other than a bladed article or a highly dangerous weapon) – not used to threaten or cause fear
  • Possession of weapon falls just short of reasonable excuse

What should I do if I’m charged with an offensive weapons offence?

Our solicitors are equipped to offer guidance, support, and legal representation for you throughout the entirety of your legal proceedings. This includes assistance at the police station, representation at your initial hearing, and preparation of your case for trial if necessary.

With our extensive expertise in the law and proceedings pertaining to the possession of offensive weapons, our team can provide invaluable advice and representation. This could make the difference between avoiding a conviction and facing imprisonment. If you find yourself accused of a criminal offence of this nature, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at 0208 692 2694 for confidential advice, or you can complete the online enquiry form below.