when is a knife not a knife?

October 4, 2006

Knifeman scales railings behind Downing Street
A 32-year-old man will appear in court today charged with possessing “a bladed article” and assaulting a police officer following a security breach at Downing Street. “Bladed article”- I like that. So what’s a gun- a barrelled bullet-containing device? I was almost right- according to the Firearms Act of 1968 a firearm is “a lethal barrelled weapon of any description, from which any shot, bullet or other missile can be discharged.” Peashooters? A well-aimed pea can be pretty lethal. The Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 also has problems with another term: ” for ‘rifle’ there shall be substituted the words ‘rifled gun'”. Much clearer. I wonder what the law on knives is- ah, here we are: Section 139 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 prohibits the possession in a public place of any article which has a blade or is sharply pointed”. Oh dear, sharply pointed, too- better keep those knitting needles out of sight at home granny.
Anyway, the knife, sorry ‘bladed article’ business reminds me of the old joke about the man who stabbed Margaret Thatcher. What offence was he charged with? Having an offensive person on his weapon.


3 Responses to “when is a knife not a knife?”

  1. SilverTiger Says:

    I sympathise with the lawmakers up to a point. People who go about with criminal intent are not short of ideas for getting around the law if this is too narrowly defined. For example, a handled metal comb with the teeth removed makes an acceptable substitute for a stiletto. This is not a knife but might possibly be considered a “bladed weapon”.

    British law arguably goes too far in some instances. People are often charged with being in possession of “an offensive weapon”. Now, you may think this would have to be at least a gun or a knife, or perhaps a razor. But no, it can be practically anything. Half a brick or a Coke bottle will do. When at a loss to find something to nick you for, your friendly neighbourhood bobby can always get you for possession of an offensive weapon. Unless you happen to be naked. But he can nick you for that too, so all the bases are covered 😉


  2. tomeemayeepa Says:

    Good points and thanks for the tip on combs. Probably a more effective weapon than a blade of grass.

  3. LF Says:

    Hmm. Damn true. I was recently arrested for carrying a credit-card sized toolkit with pen, tweezers, and a one inch long blade (described in adverts as an envelope opener) in my wallet. So now I probably have to go to court about it.

    Yet you look at any advert for this credit-card sized toolkit, they advertise it as ‘perfect for your handbag or wallet’! So basically, the second you leave the shop you have no excuse for having it unless you plan to use it at home only. Makes me realise just what a ‘crackdown’ on knives really entails – wasting peoples time and threatening them with a serious criminal record so they can’t get a job anymore.

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