Sentencing guidelines for possession of a bladed article

Reviewed by Nick Titchener on 23rd August 2023

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Nick Titchener

Managing Partner

In Brief

Lawtons Solicitors are experts at defending cases of possession of a bladed article due to our extensive knowledge, experience and commitment to criminal defence. 

With a dedicated team of solicitors specialising in criminal law, we have successfully handled and won numerous cases in this specific area. Our expertise lies in understanding the complexities of the law surrounding bladed article offences, including relevant legislation and sentencing guidelines. 

Our highly skilled solicitors approach each case with meticulous attention to detail, conducting thorough investigations and building robust defence strategies tailored to individual circumstances. 

Independently recognised as a leading criminal law firm by both The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, Lawtons are the trusted choice for those facing charges related to possession of a bladed article.

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If you are arrested, or asked to attend the police station to be questioned on a voluntary basis, in connection with being in possession of a bladed article, it is crucial that you take the accusation seriously and seek professional, expert legal representation as soon as possible. At Lawtons we understand the stress that you can be under at this time, and will work closely alongside you to guide you through the legal process, meticulously examine the evidence and build the most robust defence that we can. Contacting the right legal team is the first step towards a positive outcome, so do not delay in speaking to us on 033 577 0522. 

What is a bladed article? 

In most cases a bladed article is a knife, but it is officially defined under Section 139 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 as simply any article which has a blade or is sharply pointed. Folding pocket knives with blades of less than 3 inches in length are the only exception to this. This means that even a blunt butter knife with no point or cutting edge is a bladed article as it still has a blade.

What does possession of a bladed article mean?

An offence under the Criminal Justice Act 1988, carrying a knife or other bladed article in public is prohibited even if you do not intend to use it. You are permitted to possess bladed articles in private, such as kitchen knives at home, but these must not be carried in a public place without good reason. What the law has defined as a good reason is very tightly restricted and it is very important that someone doesn’t take risks. In a home environment or public place, if a bladed article is used in a threatening way, different offences may be charged.

What are the mitigating circumstances for possession of a bladed article?

In the eyes of the courts, there are limited reasons why carrying a bladed article in public may be considered acceptable, but these include:

  • Carrying a knife as a tool of your trade, such as a chef’s knife to and from the place of work or a Stanley knife for a carpenter who is going to or from a job they are doing
  • Religious articles such as a Sikh kirpan

Self-defence is not an automatic defence to being in possession of a bladed article. In some circumstances it can be argued but to leave a house with the bladed article in anticipation of being attacked and as a deterrent would not be a good reason and is often viewed as an aggravating factor.

Are any knives completely illegal under UK law?

There are certain types of knives which are illegal in the UK whether kept privately or otherwise. These prohibited items include:

  • Flick knives
  • Butterfly knives
  • Disguised knives
  • Sword-sticks
  • Samurai swords (unless the item is decorative, antique or an ornamental object)

What are the sentencing guidelines for possession of a bladed article?

Effective since 2018, the Sentencing Council’s updated guidelines specify a range of penalties where someone is found guilty of possession of a bladed article. This reflects the increasingly harsh sentences being given out by the courts. For being in possession of a bladed article with no good reason, the starting point without aggravating factors is a 6 month custodial sentence, the range being 3 months custody up to 12 months in prison.

The sentence will depend on various factors including:

  • The severity of the offence (culpability and harm)
  • Any aggravating or mitigating factors

Aggravating factors can include threats of violence, previous convictions and attempts to conceal the weapon. In addition, there are a number of location-based factors which can act as aggravating factors and escalate a possession offence into a category 1 offence. These include:

  • Committing the offence near a school, hospital or other place where vulnerable people are likely to be present
  • Committing the offence in prison
  • Committing the offence in a context where there is a risk of causing serious disorder
  • Causing distress or alarm with the offence

Anything that does not fall within the above criteria is considered a category 2 offence with the 6 month custodial sentence.

For a Category 1 offence, the starting point is 18 months prison, with a range of 12 months to 30 months.

Where someone has a previous conviction for being in possession of a bladed article there is a mandatory minimum sentence of 6 month prison unless the court decides that it would be unjust to do so. 

What you should do if you are arrested for possession of a bladed article

Whatever the context in which you have been accused of possession of a bladed article, due to the sentences that the courts will be considering, it is imperative that you seek legal assistance as soon as possible. Do not take part in any investigation proceedings until this is secured – or you may put your defence case at risk. At Lawtons we will approach your case without judgement and with the highest attention to detail, in order to secure the best possible outcome for you and your family. 

Do not hesitate to get in touch by calling 0333 577 0522 as your future and reputation may be at risk.

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