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UK Knife Law Quick Overview


Please note - we are not lawyers! This is just a "rough and ready" guide to inform people of their general rights with regards to knife usage and safety in the United Kingdom. Please do not attempt to use the information provided here as a legal defense!

Knives and Tools

Most knives and bladed tools are considered legal in the UK unless they are explicitly banned by the Offensive Weapons Act (e.g. flick knives) or are being used is an illegal way in the performance of a criminal act, at which point any knife/tool becomes an illegal weapon.

You are able to purchase, own and use such knives and tools for legitimate purposes such as cooking, hunting, camping, bushcraft, carpentry etc.

Where can you legitimately carry a knife? There is some misconception here as there is an important distinction to be made between a "UK legal knife" and and a "UK legal knife that is legal to carry". A UK legal knife is any knife that has not been explicitly banned whereas a UK legal knife that is legal to carry must:

a) Be folding and non-locking (employ a slip-joint or similar non-locking mechanism).

b) Have a blade length of less than 3 inches.

c) Not be carried whilst in certain buildings/spaces such as schools, police stations, airports and others.

To put it simply, you can carry a pen-knife or similar (e.g Swiss Army Knife) legally, in most places without explicit reason. It is a small utility tool than can come in handy, randomly, on a daily basis.

A UK legal knife is basically any other knife other than those that are explicitly banned or do not fall into the above "pen-knife" category. A knife with a fixed or locking blade of any length will require the owner to have a legitimate reason for its possession and carry. So, for example, a carpet fitter on their way to work with a locking box cutter in their possession, for that purpose, would be considered a legitimate reason for its carry. Similarly, a person on their way to a camping trip may have legitimate reason for having a fixed blade knife or axe in their possession. Carrying such a knife just “because it might come in handy” will not constitute a legitimate reason for its possession and carry.

If you are in any doubt about any of the information provided here, please contact a legal professional such as a criminal law expert or a police officer as UK criminal law is an ever evolving body of work which is highly nuanced.

The Bushgear Team