Offensive Weapons Bill

Written evidence submitted by Ian Parish (OWB122)

Summary of Points:

- Clarification on ‘Defence’ vs ‘Exemption’

- Exemption for antiques

- Clarification of age verification upon delivery

- Clarification on overseas postage

I am a private law abiding citizen of the United Kingdom who is Interested in collecting both antique and reproduction swords and enthusiastic practitioner of historical European martial arts. 

An outline of my concerns with this bill is that despite its intent to tackle the scourge of knife crime upon our streets it will even if successful (which to be honest I had grave doubts about) it will in effect punish law abiding citizens such as myself and the businesses that support our interests. As a private citizen purchasing many items that can only be purchased by mail without extensive travel I would have to find a business location that would be willing to accept my parcels and conduct the necessary checks. In the case of ordering especially from another country I would have to find a business willing to take the necessary steps to apply the new rules when many may simply refuse orders from UK citizens because of these new rules and possibly increased risk of seized goods or delays at UK customs. 

I would appreciate if you could consider both the wide variety of goods this bill covers against those that are actually used In crime. It is my firm belief that incidents of crimes being committed using for Instance a 1796 pattern light Calvary sabre or a reproduction medieval arming sword for a company such as albion swords are negligible compared to the use of more freely available objects such as kitchen knives and fighting knifes with a considerably shorter blade. 

Included below are further points I agree need considering but more eloquently written than my points above. 

2. As you are undoubtedly aware, a petition with over 20,000 signatures at the time of writing is calling for the removal of Article 15 from the Bill:

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/222776

3. There is additionally another petition on Change.org calling for exemptions for antiques:

https://www.change.org/p/sajid-javid-reconsider-the-offensive-weapons-bill-for-fencers-and-hobbyists 

‘Defences’:

4. We are pleased to see that the Home Office has, in the latest updates to the Bill, added ‘defences’ for the postage of certain objects, including custom-made items, fencing and re-enactment equipment, and blunt blades. Article 15 really should be scrapped totally, but we appreciate that these ‘defences’ are better than nothing, and we are grateful that the Home Office is responding to feedback.

5. It is, however, very troubling to see the official statements from the Home Office confuse ‘defence’ with ‘exemption’ often and repeatedly. Unless we have misunderstood UK law, a defence and an exemption are very much not the same thing, nor synonymous. In the former, a person would be guilty until proven innocent, and in the latter they would be innocent until proven guilty. This creates an ambiguity which seems careless by the Home Office and could lead to needless confusion and legal implications, which will cause stress and potential financial loss for both citizens and public services.

Three Important Requests:

6. These matters aside, there are 3 specific and fundamental urgent matters which the Bill has not yet addressed clearly. These urgently need addressing if this Bill is to move forward in a reasonable way:

- 1) Antiques need to be listed in the ‘defences’ section for Article 15 of the Bill, for postage to private residential addresses. The antiques industry in the UK is huge and world-famous. It is essential that antique buyers are able to have items delivered to their homes, whether they be buying from auction houses and using courier services, or buying directly from an antique dealer’s website. In some cases, such antiques are worth tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds each. Antiques are specifically exempted from the Offensive Weapons Act and Amendments, since 1988. The so-called ‘samurai sword ban’ also specifically exempts antiques. The evidence does not show that antiques are used in crime; they are of great historical, cultural and financial worth, and in the UK have always been exempted from weapons legislation (with the exception of some types of firearm). It is essential that antiques be given AT LEAST the same level of ‘defence’ as sporting and re-enactment items in this Bill, and preferably should be given a complete, clear exemption. It is frankly bizarre that antiques have not been mentioned, given that they are specifically exempted from other weapon-related legislation in UK law, and have been so for decades.

- 2) How will age verification at a business address work? The authors of the Bill’s text do not seem to understand how postage works. They state that postage of blades to businesses addresses, including businesses run from private homes, will be allowed because age verification can happen then. But this does not make any sense in reality. If a person sends a knife by Royal Mail or Parcelforce to a house or an office, they will simply deliver the item and take a signature (if signed-for delivery is paid for). Parcelforce or Royal Mail do not ask for proof of age. The Post Office and Parcelforce do not offer this as an option. If a person posts a knife (in a perfectly legal fashion) to a business address, who will verify age and how? As far as the delivery company is concerned, there is no material difference between delivery to a business or private address. The Home Office seem to think that there is a fundamental difference between delivery to a business address and delivery to a residential address, but currently there is no such difference, and the Home Office offers no explanation or apparent understanding of how this proposed system will operate.

 

- 3) Clarify the text around postage to UK vs international residential addresses. The Bill makes strong statements about postage to private residential addresses, but does not specify clearly if this only applies to UK private addresses. Under the new Bill, it is not clear whether that would be prohibited or not. This definitely needs clarifying in the wording of the Bill. If the Bill creates a situation whereby a UK seller is forbidden from sending a knife to a private address in a country where such things are not restricted, then that is frankly ridiculous and nonsensical. UK law should only apply in the UK and this should be clearly set out in the Bill.

7. I look forward to seeing how the Committee proposes to address these 3 specific points. Or, preferably, remove Article 15 altogether, as it absolutely does not offer any benefit in reducing access to household kitchen knives for under-18s. It is estimated that over 90% of knife stabbing is done with a kitchen knife and every house already contains a number of these. Restricting the delivery of kitchen knives (or any other type of knife) will have no impact on victims and will only penalise the law-abiding, while putting yet more strain on the over-stretched Police and Border Force.

 

Yours sincerely,

Mr Ian Parish

July 2018

 

Prepared 13th August 2018