LEGAL EAGLE: Knife offences can lead to jail

I was arrested the other day for theft. When the police searched my rucksack there was a small pen knife in there and I was arrested about this. I didn't know it was there - I think it was my brother's as he had borrowed my bag. I told the police this but they said I will probably be charged when I go back and I should get a solicitor. Surely the court wouldn't treat it very seriously given the circumstances?

You have probably seen a lot of information in the press over the last couple of years about knife crime. Most recently reports have focused on the government recommendations that certain offences involving knives should automatically result in minimum prison sentences. These will primarily apply where there is some kind of threat. However the Courts already take any offences involving possession of knives seriously and have guidelines setting out recommended sentences. Possession of a knife – even without any harm being caused or threatened – can result in a prison sentence although of course every case is different and the court will always look at all of the circumstances.

The two most relevant offences are possession of an offensive weapon and possession of a bladed article. For both you must possess the item in a public place, there are defences if you had the item for a particular purposes (the provisions about this aspect are too specific and detailed to go into here) and, arguably, you must legally and/or knowingly – not just physically – be in possession of the relevant item (again this is a complicated issue).

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An item can be categorised as an offensive weapon in different ways - either it is classed in law as one whatever the circumstances or, it would not normally be classed as one but is in a particular case because of the circumstances in which it is possessed i.e. it has been made or adapted to use to cause injury.

A bladed article is any item with a blade or sharp point but there are specific provisions for folding pocket knives depending on the length of the blade and whether it is a lock knife.

From what you have said, it seems most likely that the police will be considering charging you with a bladed article offence although that will depend on the specific characteristics of the knife. You may have a defence given the circumstances. I recommend you see a solicitor before you return to the police station who will be able to advise you in more detail.

l Ben Hoare Bell LLP has specialist Criminal Solicitors that work in Sunderland and the surrounding areas. They can advise on issues such as this and other criminal offences. To speak to a Solicitor ring 0191 565 3112 or email [email protected]. Visit for more information.

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