Website of the UK government

Please note that this website has a UK government accesskeys system.

Public services all in one place

Main menu

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Knife crime

Knife crime can involve many things, including just buying or carrying an illegal knife. In recent years, laws on selling and carrying knives have been tightened, and punishments for knife offences increased. Before you consider buying a knife, make sure it’s legal.

What is knife crime?

‘Knife crime’ is any crime that involves a knife.

This can include:

  • carrying or trying to buy a knife if you’re under 18
  • threatening people with a knife
  • carrying an illegal kind of knife
  • murder or assault in which the victim was stabbed with a knife
  • robbery or burglary where the thieves carried a knife as a weapon

Carrying a knife

If you carry a knife to protect yourself or make yourself feel safer but don’t intend to use it then you are committing a crime. You are also more likely to become a victim of crime.

Your own knife can be used against you.

If you do want to know more about protecting yourself, there are much easier and safer ways to do it. You could, for example, take a self-defence course offered by your local council, or at a gym.

Basic rules on knives

If you’re planning to buy or carry a knife, it’s important to know the rules. Anyone found breaking these laws can face up to four years in prison.

These include:

  • it is illegal for any shop to sell a knife of any kind (including cutlery and kitchen knives) to anyone under the age of 18
  • it is a crime to carry a knife in public without good reason – for example, if you work as a chef
  • the maximum penalty for an adult carrying a knife is four years in prison and a fine of £5000
  • it is illegal to carry, buy or sell any type of knife banned by the government (the list of banned knives is below)
  • knives with folding blades, like Swiss Army knives, are not illegal as long as the blade is three inches long (7.62 cm) or less
  • if any knife is used in a threatening way (even a legal knife, such as a Swiss Army knife), it is regarded as an 'offensive weapon' by the law
  • any sharp instrument – even a screwdriver – can be viewed by the police as an illegal offensive weapon if you do not have a good reason for carrying it

Illegal knives

There is a complete ban on the sale of some knives, which are considered to be offensive weapons.

These include:

  • flick knives - knives where the blade is hidden inside the handle and shoots out when a button is pressed; these are also called 'switchblades' or 'automatic knives'
  • butterfly knives - where the blade is hidden inside a handle that splits in two around it, like wings; the handles swing around the blade to open or close it
  • disguised knives - where the blade is hidden inside something like a belt buckle or fake mobile phone
  • gravity knives
  • sword-sticks
  • samurai swords
  • hand-claws
  • foot-claws
  • belt-buckle knives
  • push daggers
  • kubotan (cylindrical container, holding spikes)
  • shuriken (also known as 'death stars' or 'throwing stars')
  • kusari-gama (sickle attached to a rope, cord or wire)
  • kyoketsu-shoge (hook-knife attached to a rope, cord or wire)
  • kusari (weight attached to a rope, cord or wire)

This is not a complete list. If you think a knife you want to buy might be illegal, please check with your local police force.

Reporting knife crime anonymously

If you have information about knife crime and you're nervous about going to the police, you can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. They will never ask for your name or try to trace the number that you're calling from.

What can you do about knife crime?

Police and local councils regularly run anti-knife campaigns, and if you’re upset or scared by knife crime, you might want to get involved. These usually involve events that let you know about problems in your area, and give you the chance to talk about the issues.

If you're interested, contact your neighbourhood policing team. You can also just stop by your nearest police station to find out about anti-knife activities in your area.

Was this information useful?

How useful did you find this information?

500 character limit
Your Privacy Opens new window

Why are we asking for this information?

  • we want to hear what you think about the quality and usefulness of our pages
  • your comments will help us improve our pages
  • your comments will also help with the future development of Directgov
  • telling us what you think will help make sure we give you the very best service

Additional links

Victims of crime - find help

If you're a victim of crime, you can now search for services in your area that can give you help and support

Access keys

If you would like to take part in our website visitor survey, please visit the site and then come back and select this link to take part in the survey.