Offensive Weapons Bill

Written evidence submitted by John Carlin (OWB13)

Submission concerning the Offensive Weapons Bill 2017- 2019. (Specifically: the sale and delivery and Delivery of Edged Weapons.)

To whom it may concern,

1. I am a retired Police Superintendent of the Greater Manchester Police with 32years service. During that time I served in the Tactical Aid Unit, as a Sergeant in Trafford, a uniform group Inspector in Moss Side and retired from the force as a National Firearms Commander in the Specialist Operations Unit. My service was almost wholly street based, operational and hands on. My daughter is currently a serving, uniformed, officer in the force.

2. During my time I witnessed, firsthand, the use of knives, wounds resulting from knife crime, recovered edged weapons and held a man as he died from stab wounds resulting from a domestic dispute. On one tragic occasion I was first on the scene to find a person killed and decapitated using a potato peeler. At no time during my extensive career did I come across the use of an expensive historic edged weapon purchased for the purpose of illegal use on the streets.

3. It is my experience that the vast majority of ‘knife crime‘ results from the impulsive use of domestic cutlery or sharp utensils of any and all descriptions.

4. Since my retirement I have built an internet based business dealing in collectable Militaria which includes a range of antique and historically relevant edged weapons. These are, in the main, rare, often unique and expensive items. I sell both domestically and internationally to adult collectors, museums and official bodies. Therein lays my specific interest in this consultation.

5. I commend the obvious motives behind the proposals and the need to re-enforce the message concerning knife crime; especially to the young who may be tempted to carry weapons. The simple fact is that we have surrendered the streets and in the absence of a significant Police presence, it can be argued that education and the use of realistic, imagery may have more effect than additional and unnecessary legislation.

6. I would argue that there is sufficient legislation in place to cater for the current needs if the will and staff to enforce it existed. The simple fact is that the strata of society at whom these proposals are aimed will not be influenced in any way by increased legislation and it would simply have little or no effect. There is a real concern that further ineffective and un-enforceable legislation will contribute to the plethora of laws which are already being ignored.

7. Based on my knowledge and experience I am certain that people who carry and use knives do not order by mail order and spend vast amounts on a dagger or sword. All-encompassing, sweeping, legislation such as those proposed, will have a minimal, statistically insignificant, effect on knife crime. The knives most used are sourced from any kitchen drawer, craft knives from budget shops or sharpened screw drivers. To impose prescriptive legislation across the board which would impact adversely on legitimate and well run businesses is just a waste of time and effort.

8. If anyone wishes to purchase a knife there are many anonymous third parties of the required age that will do so for a ‘friend’.

9. The banning of so called ‘Zombie Knives’ is to be commended; the restrictions on the sale and import of modern curved blades has been effective and a simple solution would be to add further categories to that legislation and increase penalties.

10. The proposal to ban the ownership and possession, retrospectively, of certain edged weapons in any circumstances is patently ridiculous. It would brand, at a stroke, law abiding UK citizens as criminals; it would be un-enforceable, have no effect on the current causes of knife crime and at best create yet another ‘black market’ of illegally held weapons.

11. A prime, recent, example of this is the retrospective introduction of EU regulations on deactivated weapons. At a stroke a covert black market in ‘defectively deactivated’ weapons has sprung up. Previously law abiding collectors now meet in car parks and exchange / sell each other UK deactivated guns which 12 months ago were perfectly legal to buy and sell. I have no doubt what so ever that a similar market will emerge from this enterprise unless someone has the foresight to avoid the soft option and target criminals instead of collectors and the general public.

12. In respect of on-line sale and delivery of edged weapons to residential properties; I would submit that this too is a heavy handed, all embracing and an ill-conceived proposal. There are already restrictions on the sale of knives to minors. If it were possible to enforce that effectively and with the means to do so, the problem now being addressed would perhaps not be as dire. The simple fact is anyone who wishes to carry an edged weapon has in-numerable sources to dip into.

13. I do not allow on-line payment for any of the goods we sell, including edged weapons. If you were to look at my ‘ethical’ sales policy in reads:

Sales of edged weapons, air weapons, de-activated firearms and munitions will not be made to anyone under the age of 18 years. Proof of age will be required.

3. Payment Options  

3:1   * *** .  We do not allow payment on-line. This is due to legal restrictions both domestic and international in relation to age and delivery requirements; also export / import restrictions. Customers are given personal attention and contacted directly regarding payment.

14. I speak with everyone who orders from my site. Not once, in over 10 years trading, has an under-age person sought to buy an edged weapon from me. Historic weapons can cost from several hundred pounds to many thousands. The added legal obligation to deliver other than to a domestic address will only affect professional commercial retailers, such as myself. High profile ethical professionals ‘will toe the line’ Everyone else will totally ignore the requirement and the law will immediately fall into disrepute.

15. I would suggest that the way forward at this time is to;

1. Introduce the required ‘public safety’ message within the first year at High School, in a hard hitting, no nonsense, shocking manner. So that those tempted to carry knives can see the devastating effect that puncture and slash wounds have on the human body. Allow teachers or properly trained professionals i.e. the Police, to make random and un-announced searches.

2. To re-introduce age specific ‘stop and search’ in areas of high risk in order to increase the ‘dread of detection’ Give this maximum publicity.

3. Importantly to instruct the Crown Prosecution Service to take a more robust approach to prosecuting knife crime and enforce legislation which already exists.

4. To re-iterate, to those engaged in selling knives, the legislation as it currently exists and increase penalties for those who flagrantly ignore age requirements. Continue with test purchases mindful of the need not to act as ‘agent provocateur’

I submit this short report in the forlorn hope that perhaps there is a willingness to listen to legitimate concerns and introduce a strategy which may have some effect on reversing the current trend amongst the young. If I can contribute further I am willing to do so.

July 2018


Prepared 4th July 2018