Proposed new offensive weapon offences


On 3 October, Home Secretary Amber Rudd made the long-awaited announcement at the Conservative Party Conference that under 18s will be banned from buying acid, in a bid to crackdown on the recently reported trend of acid attacks. The Home Office launched a consultation on 14 October, dealing with that proposal and changes to offensive weapon legislation. Although it is the proposed changes to the possession of corrosive substances that has grabbed headlines, there are large changes to knife legislation proposed.

All the proposed changes are detailed below.

Knife offences

NEW OFFENCE: Delivery of knives purchased online to private residential addresses. Knives sold online will only be delivered to and collected by the person who made the purchase at a place where the age of a purchaser can be checked. It will be for retailers to decide where purchasers can collect knives purchased online and have their age checked.

Proposed defence: To demonstrate they have been taken precautions and exercised due diligence.

Proposed penalty: None given.

NEW OFFENCE: Possessing certain weapons in private. This will apply to weapons described in paragraph 1 of the Schedule to the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (Offensive Weapons) order 1988 and section 1 of the Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959. It includes push daggers, knuckledusters and flick knives.

Proposed defence: None given.

Proposed penalty: Maximum six months imprisonment or a fine on summary conviction, or a maximum of 4 years imprisonment or a fine or both on conviction on indictment.

EXTENSION of possession of a knife in schools to other education establishments. This will include sixth form colleges, further education colleges and universities.

No proposed defence or penalty is given in the legislation, but it is likely to follow the existing legislation of possession of knives in a public place or on school grounds.

AMENDMENT of the test of threatening with a bladed article or offensive weapon. The current test requires the prosecution to prove that the defendant threatened the other person with the weapon "in such a way that there is an immediate risk of serious physical harm to that person". The test is to be changed to "the victim reasonably fears they would be likely to suffer serious physical harm".

AMENDMENT of the definition of a flick knife. No longer will the switch blade mechanism be required to be in the handle, meaning where the mechanism is part of the knife blade it will still be considered a flick knife.

Acid offences

NEW OFFENCE: Selling products with certain corrosive substances to under 18s. The government is considering listing the substances of particular concern in statutory guidance.

Proposed defence: To demonstrate they have been taken precautions and exercised due diligence.

Proposed penalty: To mirror the sale of knives to under 18s. To be set at a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months, an unlimited fine or both.

NEW OFFENCE: Possessing a corrosive substance in a public place. Currently, those possessing a corrosive substance in a public place could be charged under section 1 of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953. However, that requires the prosecution to prove that a person in possession of the substance intended to cause injury. The new proposed offence would put the onus on explaining possession on the defendant.

Proposed defence: Good reason or lawful authority.

Proposed penalty: To mirror knife offences. A minimum custodial sentence would apply for those convicted of a second offence.

Firearm Offences

AMENDMENT of section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968 prohibiting .50 calibre 'materiel destruction' rifles and rapid firing rifles. This is to clarify current legislation to include rifles where a second pull of the trigger is required to discharge a round where the rate of fire is significantly greater than a conventional bolt-action rifle.

When will these proposals come into force?

The consultation closes on 9 December 2017. The government will publish a response within 3 months of the closing date, detailing which proposals it plans to continue with and any amendments to those proposals.

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