blades taken by police - advice please

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Nov 21, 2011
Hi everyone, i hope the title gives a fairly clear overview of my predicament but i'll explain more.

I am still reluctant to call myself a bushcrafter as i consider myself a novice. My main learning resources have been this site and you tube, and i have spent the last year practicing skills and gathering some gear.

After much persuasion, i managed to talk 4 of my mates out of the pub and into the woods for a weekend. We headed for a small loch in the Trossachs where i have been many times and established a good rapport with the forest rangers by tidying our site on arrival, respecting the area and leaving it in a better state than when we arrived. The rangers did visit on our 1st night and were more than happy with us being there.

I had the following TOOLS:

Condor Kumunga (only got this 2 weeks ago after much researching)
Mora Clipper
Whitby folding lock knife (only really used for food prep)
Small axe (approx 10 inches long)
Bahco Laplander
Cheap folding saw (didn't want anyone breaking my bahco)
Splitting wedge and club hammer

On 2nd night police arrived - i was using the splitting wedge as there was a young couple with child approx 150 yards away at the lochside and did not think it appropriate to have knifes out. One of the officers immediately threatened to arrest me for possesion of an offensive weapon when he noticed the Condor. All knives were sheathed and axe was in a log due to no sheath. I avoided arrest by agreeing to put all blades (apart from splitting wedge and hammer) in the car.

On arrival back home i found Tony's great page on UK knife law. As i believed I had done nothing wrong, I contacted police hq for advice on future use of blades. Very helpful on phone, agreed it sounded like i had done nothing wrong but advised they could only give limited advice without seeing the blades.

I arranged to visit the police station with all my blades and turned up today. I have had all blades removed from me, including both folding saws. Apparently I MIGHT get them back, if the officer with the initial concerns has no problem with me getting them.

For context, I work in social care so i cannot really afford to risk arrest and fight my case at court - however i am obviously gutted at the outcome.

Any advice would really be appreciated - i am considering local councillor, MP etc. Not keen to make police complaint as i don't really want blue lights in my mirror for months to come.

Sorry for the length of post - thought it important to include as much detail as possible.


Jul 15, 2005
Penzance, Cornwall
Gosh! I'm not sure what to say, as don't know the laws very well myself (am sure others here can advise you on that). However, it sounds like the police haven't actually made a final decision yet, so as it stands we can still hope they'll give your tools back? Like any beaurocracy, I expect it will take them a while, so might be worth ringing every few days to politely check whether there have been any decisions made yet regarding your case?


Feb 26, 2009
East Kilbride
Sounds like an over zealous individual. You could write to the relevant chief inspector without making an official complaint? Some of them are woeful, I guess it's just your luck who you run up against & what frame of mind they're in. For them to confiscate at the station seems ridiculous (maybe consider legal advice? I would)
Pretty annoying thing to happen


Full Member
Nov 10, 2003
a lawyer is probably a slightly better place to go for legal advice than an internet forum, "some bloke from the internet" rarely stands up as defence statement.

sorry to hear about your troubles, welcome to the forum :)
Sep 21, 2008
Can we get this straight.

1. You camped with some sharp things but resolved the issue - OK so that now has nothing to do with the current situation.

2. On a fresh occasion you turn up (by prior appointment) at a police station to ask advice on specific sharps which are perfectly legal to own and they are confiscated.

Is that right?

tiger stacker

Dec 30, 2009
Difference between Strathclyde and Central will be interesting once the merger goes ahead. Chances are the Trossachs Police hailed from Callendar or Balfron.
Which station did you visit, by voluntary handing them over you are still on the rightside of the law. The case for the condor rests on what it is to be used for, their decision may seem harsh if the original officer wish to arrest you for possession. He did not do that though, good luck though.


Jul 18, 2012
South west
There are two separate issues here. The camping incident an then the police station. Had you spoken earlier I would have said matter resolved in the woods by your agreeing to put them in the car. Had the police felt strongly they would have arrested you. I would suggest a positive outcome for you. This is merely ensuring you get the tool out, use it and put it away. Safest way for everyone. Since the car was nearby it made sense to use it as a locked cabinet so to speak.
If that was all that happened why on earth did you ring the police station, or indeed go there? They certainly don't need to see the items to offer the correct advice. Can't help feeling there's a little more to this. But you turn up and present them. The police station is a public place so they were within the law to seize them from you. This leaves me with some questions though. We're you arrested? We're you formally interviewed? If you were they may be seeking advice from the cps or scottish equivalent as to potential charges for possessing offensive weapons in a public place (the police station).
Assuming you are relating the whole story I would suggest obtaining the services of a solicitor ASAP to ensure your property is not disposed of.
As for complaining, please do. You will get a better explanation then. Don't think that you'll be targeted as a result. In fact it's likely to have the opposite effect.
Either way, good luck.


Nov 21, 2011
Thanks for the replies. As yet, i have not been charged with any offence so i don't think a lawyer will be much good - it would probably cost more for their advice than the tools themselves cost. Also, even if a lawyer was to say i am within my rights to act as i was, i doubt it would deter any officers i may deal with in the future - I imagine "some lawyer told me..." may aggrevate them more.

Contacting the chief inspector informally is a good suggestion, thanks for that. I just want to enjoy my hobby without causing any offence to anyone and without risking arrest.

If I haven't heard from them by Wed, i'll be contacting the station (by then the 2 officers involved should have had time to communicate) so i'll keep post updated with the outcome.

Thanks again for the replies and advice


Full Member
Nov 10, 2003
....As yet, i have not been charged with any offence so i don't think a lawyer will be much good.....
so what is it that you're asking us for? if you think that the legal advice that you'd get from a legal professional is of no use then how on earth is legal advice from amateurs of any use?

....Also, even if a lawyer was to say i am within my rights to act as i was, i doubt it would deter any officers i may deal with in the future - I imagine "some lawyer told me..." may aggrevate them more......
some interesting phrases in there. when you say "aggrevate them more", what leads you to think that they're aggrevated in the first place? why would you be concerning yourself with deterring any officers that you may deal with in the future? deter them from what?

.....Contacting the chief inspector informally is a good suggestion......
this really baffles me, why on earth would a chief inspector risk his career to speak to someone "informally" about an issue that he's paid to deal with professionally?

i really do hope that i'm wrong, but i'm suspicious by nature and something's not right here at all, there's bits missing


Jul 23, 2009
Plymouth, Devon
One thing I have discovered about UK policing is that as police they don't know the law, they are not lawyers, but if in their opinion a law is being broken they have the right to confiscate pending further investigation and arrest if necessary, that means they will be checking if what has been confiscated is unlawful and boy, from experience are they keen to find out if something is unlawful. If what you have is within the law expect your possessions back without even an apology, but if such items are valuable to you, in your place I would be consulting a law professional.

As to legal sharps in a public place, that is a tricky one especially since the invention of the cell phone, as there are too many people who like to complain and complaints made to the police, the police have to act and if they are forced to come out, well you got told to put them in your car, that is about as much as saying you were doing nothing wrong, it is just others had seen you and they were not comfortable with the fact you had what you had and you can bet your bottom dollar they mentioned they had children with them, because 'children' is the key word that seems to be able to circumvent anything legal.

But look at it this way, you and your mates were doing interesting things, and the complainant was out with a child, what do you think bloke with child was thinking, maybe he would rather be doing what you were doing and the fact that he was unable due to child made him envious, so if he can't have the fun you are having he will spitefully ruin yours, childish yes, but what are adults if they are not grown up children at times.

But I understand other countries laugh at us with our pathetic attitude when it comes to knives, anyone ever been to Sweden, ever notice workmen in the street, all wear fixed blade knives, in fact the popular workwear 'Snickers', which is Swedish even have a sheath built into the jackets for the fitment of a Mora Clipper in a blade up position. Everyone can handle knives there, it is no big deal, and seeing kids sporting Clippers, no one bats an eyelid.

This country needs to grip and quickly as it is sliding down the pan of stupidity too fast as we are wrapped in more and more layers of cotton wool to protect ourselves from ourselves.


Jul 29, 2012
make sure you pout everything in writing :)

keep a log of all events

ALSO !!!!

i studied law @ A level and I know this for a fact ...

to commit a crime you need ... the mensrea and the actusrea.

mensrea is the forethought of commiting a crime.

actusrea is the action of committing a crime.

you've already stated you dont know the laws so no crime has been committed.

so until you're actually told something is illegal its not.

United Kingdom

The 1689 Bill of Rights ensured that only Parliament and not the King could restrict the right of the people to bear arms. Over the last 60 years, Parliament has enacted a series of increasingly harsher laws and acts regarding the possession and use of knives and bladed tools. The United Kingdom (to include England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) has one of the most comprehensive set of laws of any developed nation governing an individual's right to import, purchase, possess, sell, and carry knives.[28]

[edit]Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959
The Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959 (amended 1961) (ROWA), prohibits the importation, sale, hire, lending, or gift of certain types of knives in England, Wales, and Scotland as of 13 June 1959[29][30] under Section 1:

(1) Any person who manufactures, sells or hires or offers for sale or hire, or exposes or has in his possession for the purpose of sale or hire or lends or gives to any other person—
(a) any knife which has a blade which opens automatically by hand pressure applied to a button, spring or other device in or attached to the handle of the knife, sometimes known as a flick knife or “flick gun”; or
(b) any knife which has a blade which is released from the handle or sheath thereof by the force of gravity or the application of centrifugal force and which, when released, is locked in place by means of a button, spring, lever, or other device, sometimes known as a gravity knife,
shall be guilty of an offence [...][29][30]
Subsection 2 also makes it illegal to import knives of this type as of 13 June 1959.[29] The above legislation criminalizes the conduct of the original owner or transferor of an automatic-opening or gravity knife, not the new owner or transferee; in addition, the statute does not criminalize possession of such knives other than possession for the purpose of sale or hire. It is therefore not illegal per se to merely possess such a knife, though the difficulties of acquiring one without violating the statute makes it (almost) impossible to obtain one without either committing or abetting an offence. Furthermore, in the UK it is customary for the Metropolitan Police, not a barrister to be consulted as legal experts on a question of whether a given knife is to be considered illegal under existing under UK knife laws, and this has resulted in a tendency to interpret any bladed object of questionable status as falling within the definition of a prohibited knife.[31]

[edit]Criminal Justice Act 1988
The Criminal Justice Act 1988 mainly relates to carrying knives in public places, Section 139 being the most important:

(1) Subject to subsections (4) and (5) below, any person who has an article to which this section applies with him in a public place shall be guilty of an offence.
(2) Subject to subsection (3) below, this section applies to any article which has a blade or is sharply pointed except a folding pocketknife.
(3) This section applies to a folding pocketknife if the cutting edge of its blade exceeds 3 inches.
(4) It shall be a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to prove that he had good reason or lawful authority for having the article with him in a public place.
The definition of "public place" is unsettled, but can loosely be defined as anywhere the public have a legitimate right to be whether this access is paid for or not, which could include any populated area within the United Kingdom, including one's motor vehicle, which is defined by law as a 'public place' unless parked on private property. In a remote or otherwise unpopulated area, a public place could include: 1) an organised wilderness gathering or event; 2) a National Park; 3) Forestry Commission land that is held open to the public; 4) public footpaths; 5) bridleways; and 6) any area where an individual does not need to ask specific permission to walk, camp, or travel from a landowner.[32]

The phrase "good reason or lawful authority" in Subsection 4 is intended to allow for "common sense" possession of knives, so that it is legal to carry a knife if there is a bona fide reason to do so. Subsection 5 gives some specific examples of bona fide reasons: a knife for use at work (e.g. a chef's knife), as part of a national costume (e.g. a sgian dubh for the Scottish national costume), or for religious reasons (e.g. a Sikh Kirpan). However, even these specific statutory exceptions have proven unavailing to knife owners at times.[33] It is important to note that that "good reason or lawful authority" exceptions may be difficult to establish for those not using a knife in the course of their trade or profession, but merely because the knife is needed in case of emergency or for occasional utility use.[34][35][36] A person on holiday and travelling by motor vehicle in the UK might well be obliged to purchase a knife at their destination, rather than risk prosecution if one is found by the police during a routine traffic stop or checkpoint.[34][35][36][37]

Although English law insists that it is the responsibility of the prosecution to provide evidence proving a crime has been committed, an individual must provide evidence to prove that they had a "good reason or lawful authority" for carrying a knife (if this is the case) upon being detained. While this may appear to be a reversal of the usual burden of proof, technically the prosecution has already proven the case (prima facie) by establishing that a knife was being carried in a public place (see Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 on Knives, etc.; New powers to tackle gun and knife crime)

As the burden of proving "good reason or lawful authority" lies with the defendant, it is likely that an individual detained and searched by the police will need to prove the following (sometimes known as the THIS list): Has THIS person got permission; to use THIS article (knife); for THIS use; on THIS land; and by THIS land owner.[32]

The special exception which exists in the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (Sec. 139) for folding knives (pocket knives) is another "common sense" measure accepting that some small knives are carried for general utility; however, even a folding pocket knife or multi-tool equipped with a blade of less than 3 inches (76 mm) may still be considered an offensive weapon if it has a locking blade.[35][38] It is a common belief that a folding pocket knife with a blade of 3 inches (76mm) or less must have a locking blade to be considered an offensive weapon, but the wording of the Criminal Justice Act does not mention locking and the matter becomes a question as to the definition of "folding pocket knife". In the Crown Court appeal of Harris v. DPP (1992)[35] and the Court of Appeal case of 'R. v Deegan (1998)[39] the ruling that 'folding' was intended to mean 'non-locking' was upheld. As the only higher court in England and Wales to the Court of Appeal is the Supreme Court, the only way the decision in R. v. Deegan could be overturned is by a dissenting ruling by the Supreme Court or by Act of Parliament.

In Scotland, the Criminal Law (Consolidation) Act 1995 prevents the carrying of 'offensive weapons', including knives and other articles with blades or points in public places without lawful authority or reasonable excuse.

Other relevant Scotland knife legislation includes the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (Offensive Weapons Act) (Scotland), Order 2005 which bans sword canes, push daggers, butterfly (balisong knives), throwing stars, knives that can defeat metal detectors, and knives disguised as other objects, and the Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2006 which makes it an offence to sell a knife, knife blade, or bladed or pointed object to a person under eighteen years of age, unless the person is sixteen or older and the knife or blade is "designed for domestic use." In 2007, the passage of the Custodial Sentences and Weapons (Scotland) Act 2007 allowed exemption from criminal liability under section 141 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (Scotland) for selling a prohibited offensive weapon if the sale was made for purposes of theatrical performances and of rehearsals for such performances, the production of films (as defined in section 5B of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (c. 48)), or the production of television programmes (as defined in section 405(1) of the Communications Act 2003 (c. 21)).

[edit]Offensive Weapons Act 1996
The Offensive Weapons Act 1996 covers the possession of knives within school premises:

(1) Any person who has an article to which section 139 of this Act applies with him on school premises shall be guilty of an offence.
(2) Any person who has an offensive weapon within the meaning of section 1 of the M1 Prevention of Crime Act 1953 with him on school premises shall be guilty of an offence.
(3) It shall be a defence for a person charged with an offence under subsection (1) or (2) above to prove that he had good reason or lawful authority for having the article or weapon with him on the premises in question.
(4) (Subsection 4 gives the same specific exceptions as subsection 139(5) with the addition of "for educational purposes". This would appear to imply that all legislation on knives in public applies similarly to school premises, and therefore a folding pocket knife under 3 inches (76mm) in length would be considered legal.)
The Offensive Weapons Act 1996 imposes an age restriction on the sale of knives:

(1) Any person who sells to a person under the age of sixteen years an article to which this section applies shall be guilty of an offence [...]
(2) Subject to subsection (3) below, this section applies to—
(a) any knife, knife blade or razor blade...[40]
In Scotland, the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 makes it an offence to sell knives to someone under 18 years of age (including any blade, razor blade, any bladed or pointed article, or any item made or adapted for causing personal injury.)

[edit]Knives Act 1997
The Knives Act 1997 prohibits the sale of combat knives and restricts the marketing of knives as offensive weapons.

[edit]Prevention of Crime Act 1953
The Prevention of Crime Act 1953 prohibits the possession in any public place of an offensive weapon without lawful authority or reasonable excuse.[41] The term "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 the Prevention of Crime Act, otherwise 'exempt' knives carried for "good reason or lawful authority" may be still deemed illegal if authorities conclude the knife is being carried as an "offensive weapon". In recent years, the Prevention of Crime Act 1953 has been reinterpreted by police and public prosecutors, who have persuaded the courts to minimize exceptions to prosecution on the grounds that the defendant had "lawful authority or reasonable excuse" in order to apply the Act to a wide variety of cases.[42] This new approach now includes prosecution of citizens who have admitted carrying a knife for the sole purpose of self-defence (in the eyes of the law, this is presently viewed as an admission that the defendant intends to use the knife as an "offensive weapon", albeit in a defensive manner, and in otherwise justifiable circumstances).[43] While the onus lies on the officer to prove offensive intent, UK prosecutors and courts have in the past taken the appearance and the marketing of a particular brand of knife into account when considering whether an otherwise legal knife was being carried as an offensive weapon. In addition, the Knives Act 1997 now prohibits the sale of combat knives and restricts the marketing of knives as offensive weapons. A knife which is marketed as "tactical", "military", "special ops", etc. could therefore carry an extra liability. Even when the knife in question appears relatively innocuous (blade length not exceeding three inches, non-locking blade), there is the perception that anyone carrying a knife in a public place is well advised to take steps to place the knife in question out of their immediate control, i.e. storing the knife when on foot or when using public transit in the bottom of a rucksack, not on the belt, in the pocket, or around the neck, and while traveling in a privately-owned motor vehicle, by placing the knife in locked storage in the vehicle boot, not in the glove compartment or in the seating area.[44][45]

[edit]Custodial Sentences and Weapons Act 2007
Further legislation in Scotland, known as the Custodial Sentences and Weapons Act 2007, is now in effect (certain parts of this Act came into force on 10 September 2007). This legislation amends the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 and makes it compulsory to possess a local authority license to sell knives, swords and blades (other than those designed for 'domestic use'), or to sell any sharply pointed or bladed object "which is made or adapted for use for causing injury to the person." Any dealer in non-domestic knives will be required to hold a ‘knife dealer’s licence’.
ik its a long quote but i have a feeling you might find many answers here ...

just after reading the last 2 paragraphs i have a good feeling you'll get them back ;0)


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Jun 24, 2012
Angus, Scotland
you've already stated you dont know the laws so no crime has been committed.

so until you're actually told something is illegal its not.
That doesn't sound right at all.

People get convicted for doing things they didn't know were illegal all the time. Just recently in my local area a Polish gentleman was convicted for carrying a lock knife.

I guess he assumed that since Britain isn't a former communist country with a questionably free system of government then we couldn't possibly have less freedom than his country ;)

He was wrong, and they confiscated his knife and I believe slapped him with a fine.

Ignorance is no defence it would seem.


Jul 23, 2009
Plymouth, Devon
The only trouble with the above is witches still get athames confiscated by the police regardless of the fact that the implement is a ceremonial tool used for religious worship.


Apr 3, 2012
Runcorn, Cheshire
If you called the station to arrange to discuss your equipment and gave prior warning/notification you would be travelling to/entering the station with what may be deemed as "offensive weapons" then they should have that on record which should help your case as you can prove beyond reasonable doubt that you stated the reason for having the items in your possession.

It may be worth also talking to the rangers at the site you used as they may be able to give a statement to your intention with the objects at the site.


Full Member
Aug 13, 2007
if you were invited to the police station to show the items the police themselves gave you 'good reason' a polite word with the chief inspector should resolve this.


Jul 29, 2012
What I stated is true, this is how many people avoid the law ... especially small menial cases. (It would be looked at differently if it were a case of manslaughter / murder / GBH / ABH)

I think in this case you have reasonable grounds to have been carrying your knife at the time. (plus the fact you were away from any members of the public and keeping to yourselves)

You also phoned and requested to take your knives to the police station and they approved prior to you taking them. (This will be a strong point too for the return of your knives)

If you have a pretty clean record this will weigh in your favour.

The general public are not expected to know the laws.

The police are only there to enforce them.

I believe the first officer dealt with the situation accordingly. The second encounter at the station I believe she was following the default/general guides they have there.

Although it does seem a little unfair they confiscated them after you requesting what you did.

MAKE SURE YOU MAKE THEM AWARE THAT YOU ARE AWAITING A RESPONSE ... as they might bull**** you and say they've been destroyed by accident.

If you don't get them back then I would start a formal complaint and approach your local MP / council rep.

Thinking about it they might confiscate them based on the size of the blade ... BUT NO WHERE DOES THE LAW STATE A MAXIMUM SIZE.
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