Offensive Weapons Bill

Written evidence submitted by Samuel Moulton (OWB102)

Summary of main points:

· Bill restricts delivery of completely legitimate tools to law-abiding citizens.

· Bill is vague as to what objects will be covered.

· Bill demands a different standard of handling to other restricted items (e.g. alcohol) which can also be ordered online, and overlooks that purchase of bladed items is already age restricted.

· Bill does nothing to tackle the problem of knife crime in a reasonable way, and overlooks the most common items used in these crimes and the most available ways of acquiring them.

· Bill overlooks the needs of disabled people and those without a car, and by doing so may actually increase the number of people carrying knives in public.

I am a law-abiding citizen writing out of concern that this bill (primarily section 15) will damage the freedoms of a large number of people like myself in response to the actions of a criminal few. I am a hobbyist who frequently purchases knives and other sharp tools online for legitimate use, but who does not have an associated business.

1. Dear Committee members, I am writing to you today to express concern over the definition and implementation of the Offensive Weapons Bill 2018. I will largely be addressing problems with Section 15. I am sure there are other areas of the bill which effect others but these are not my areas of expertise. I am a hobbyist who lives in a rural area without a business address to send tools to.

2. Section 15 of the bill restricts the delivery of "bladed products" to residential addresses in the hopes of denying minors access to these items via the internet, and is flawed for multiple reasons. In Section 17 a "bladed product" is defined as an article which "has a blade" and "is capable of causing serious injury to a person which involves cutting skin". Already this vague description could be interpreted to include completely legitimate and low risk items including but not limited to saws, chisels, scalpels, wood gouges, scissors, planes, scythes, pruning shears, scissors (including safety scissors) and perhaps even things such as ice skates. These items are surely used on a regular basis by many citizens up and down the country in a non-criminal way. Some of the more specialist and high-quality of these items must be purchased online.

3. It is also already an offence for an online seller to sell these items to a minor. The fact that some are acquiring these items via this method suggests that there are already criminal acts being performed, either on the behalf of the seller, the minor or an adult acting for the minor; criminal acts that this bill does nothing to help enforce.

4. Other age-restricted items available for purchase online (for example alcohol) also require proof of ID upon delivery on behalf of the courier. These items, which can be just as if not more damaging to minors, are vulnerable to being purchased illegally in just the same way and yet are not deemed a concern. This is a clear double standard.

5. What this bill doesn't do is tackle the problem of knife crime or the acquiring of knives by minors in any meaningful way. The most common weapons used in these attacks are cheap, disposable and readily available kitchen knives, the type found in every supermarket and every home across the country. There is no realistic way of ever stopping minors from getting their hands on these items if they so choose. Furthermore, even with the suggested changes to how knives bought online can be delivered, there is nothing to stop the already illegal act of an adult buying these items and then passing them on to a minor. The proposed bill would also fail to restrict a myriad of other, non-bladed items (e.g. bricks, glass bottles, hammers, screwdrivers, metal piping or even wood) that can be used or be easily modified to be used effectively in an equally violent and damaging way.

6. Finally, the restriction of delivery to residential addresses may have unintended consequences. For those with disabilities or without a car this bill may leave many people, especially in rural areas, simply unable to get the tools or chemicals that this bill would restrict. Others may have to walk, for example, to their local post office to pick up the tools/ chemicals and then carry the items home on their person or even on public transport; potentially increasing the number of knives/chemicals carried on the streets, the risk of offence for the innocent carriers, the chance of an accident and perhaps even making them obvious targets for the criminal element who would take the knives/chemicals and use them for nefarious purposes.

7. My recommendations for this bill, in relation to the delivery of sharp tools and chemicals, is to remove the restriction on residential deliveries entirely, and instead strengthen both the seller's and courier's responsibility to check for proof of age at point of sale and point of delivery respectively. I also recommend that the description of a "bladed product" in the bill should be made more specific to make sure it only targets the items with a high statistical chance of being used in a crime. I have no issue with the restriction of delivery to lockers or other "dead drop" locations where the ID of the recipient cannot be verified.

8. It is a shame that the United Kingdom, once world renowned for its artisans and craftsmen, now feels as though its appropriate to restrict legitimate tools and punish their owners because of the actions a a tiny minority. It is a shame also that the passions and skills of many existing hobbyists, artisans and craftsmen, as well as the chance of passing this passion and skill onto he next generation will be equally restricted under bills like this one. I truly believe that by giving the young men and women the opportunity, responsibility and trust to use these tools as intended, to create things and develop actual skills, we reduce the proliferation of this criminal element and vastly improve the lives of the individuals, as well as the strength of our society as a whole.

July 2018

 

Prepared 13th August 2018