Offensive Weapons Bill

Written evidence submitted by Dave Lockett (OWB45)

For the past 7 years I've been trying to speak with many different authorities regarding knife law. Its implementation and how its perceived by both the police and by the courts. I've spoken with the CPS, the national police chiefs council (Alf Hitchcock) whom was the knife crime lead for writing up the National guidelines for dealing with knife crime and how the law was to be interpreted, I've spoken with Esperanza Gomez at the tackling crime unit of the Home office, I've spoken with the national policing college, also a number of police personnel from constables up to chief superintendent. Along with all of these people I've gained much more knowledge from reliable data sources.

I'd like to start off with a little background regarding knife law, what the governments intentions were and how this law has evolved over time -and its implications to the criminals and of course the legitimate users of knives and bladed articles.

Flick knives, which had become a problem for the same reasons which we are seeing in London now we're being used prolifically between rival gangs of teddy boys who were trying to protect territorial boundaries and protect Gang related culture - this had become such a problem that the flick knife was enlisted on the restriction of offensive weapons act in an attempt to curtail the problems which were happening. There are three main acts / laws which look after knives and associated articles.

The criminal justice act 1988 section 139 - The restriction of offensive weapons act 1959 - The criminal justice act (offensive weapons order) 1988.

The criminal justice act 1988 - is the main focus of which knife law has evolved, and we can see from Hansard records how this act came about, it's intentions and of course how case law has obscured it's real intentions.

When the act was constructed, the Governments intentions were to afford the casual user along with the professional user the lawful right to carry without prejudice a 3" blade folding penknife which had the ability to be (locked) into place - this was applied through consultation with knife company's in and around the Sheffield area who stipulated that a (locking) blade knife was brought about as an advancement in safety. The standard folding pocket knife (slip joint) had the ability to fold shut onto the users fingers causing self inflicting accidents while in use during certain cutting techniques or situations. Many varieties of lock knife came onto the market which indeed were and have been much safer for the user to use.

A few years later, a court case came about Harris vs dpp which involved a young man carrying a lock knife in his pocket during a routine car stop by a policeman. The case went to court and the magistrate argued implicitly that his understanding or interpretation of the word (folding) meant that the knife should be foldable at all times, and shouldn't require the use of a button, Spring lever or other device to (un-lock) the blade to allow for its closure. The magistrate, so determined to get a conviction persuaded the court and got a conviction - a later case of similar surroundings also went to court, and was up-held. This then meant that it had become case Law to carry a lock knife of any sorts and was an offence to do so.

So through the Perusing intent of just a handful of magistrates and barristers the ability to carry what indeed was a much safer knife to use had been outlawed and made an offence at the cost of bringing just two people to account.

The general theme that I have found over the many years that I've been a collector and user of knives (30 yrs) is that there is a great misunderstanding of knife law by the people who make the laws, and an even greater misunderstanding by the police whom are suppose to uphold the law. Many cases which have been attributed cautions by the police were done so when no offences had been committed, the mere carrying of an exempt knife has landed many people in trouble and got them a police record because both parties didn't know the law. If you'll notice people have been conditioned into saying "lethal weapons" or "offensive weapons" without even considering the legal implications of such categorisation.

So the average legitimate knife carrier 'myself included' of which I've done since I was in the Cubs and then the scouts has been made to carry a less safer knife because of this case law change. Certain defences were applied to the criminal justice act which does allow effectively the carrying of many bladed articles but the offence has already been committed (primal facia) with the burden of proof of reason lying with the accused. This allows a little affordability in the law for people like me whom wish to carry larger knives, fixed blade knives and locking knives while carrying out those activities such as 'bushcraft', camping, wood carving etc but again it's only my word vs the police or courts, and there have been cases where it's gone the wrong way for the wrong reasons just to get a conviction. Remember the vast majority of the police that I've spoken to don't understand the law and its exceptions, in fact it's written in guidelines by the NPCC that if its in the interest of public concern that a conviction should be sought - even if the carrier of the knife is legitimate.

I have been asking for the past seven years that if I carry my locking blade 'leatherman' multi tool which is only available in locking format- will the reason of presumption of use afford me the exemption from offence as how can I know if I will use the multi tool that day or not for whatever purpose.... The whole reasoning behind having that particular multi tool is that it offers increased protection to the user through the safe locking of the blades. I've never ever been given any answer other that it's up to the courts to decide if that's a reasonable excuse or good reason to carry. Now I don't think that that's acceptable when you allow a Sikh to carry a Kirpin (dagger) or a Scotsman to carry a skiduh for their religious reasons.

The law as it is stands in the way of good honest legitimate users, it makes them have to justify beyond reasonable question for their intentions. Putting in the new proposed 'offensive weapons bill' would be reckless on the part of the legitimate user for many reasons. When you actually look at the knife styles which are so often depicted on police websites or knife ban campaigns the overwhelming majority are so often the humble kitchen drawer knife, when you consider that this style of knife is still going to be so open to availability and misuse then surely you can see that applying a ban on the sale of knives on-line will have minimal impact to the issues which we are facing today.

When you actually consider what the root problems are as to why we are seeing such an incline in serious violence - this isn't extraordinary this is the now, new normal. Drugs and the financial gains from them have taken over and what you're seeing is in-fact normal in today's society. The use of weapons, knives or any other implements are merely a by product of the real problems which are happening, which is territorial and geographical protection for the selling rights of drug dealers and their associated gangs. It doesn't matter to these people what changes in knife law you make they are above the law and convincing yourself or the general public would be disingenuous to everyone concerned. Knife law as it stands now needs to be reviewed and in the case of lock knives should be relaxed just how the government intended for the reasons explained and pertaining to safety for the user without fear of committing an offence.

The proposed changes relating to redefining a 'flick knife' are empty of reasoning and will facilitate the misuse of case law to grab further candidates under the same meaning. There are so many variants of knives which could conceivably come under the proposed phrasing proposed for what constitutes a 'flick knife' which would take purposeful knives out of existence. There are one handed openers which have a thumb stud as part of the blade to facilitate the opening of the knife using only one hand, this style of knife was developed for hunters, and for climbers etc where the ability to use just one hand was a requirement and not just a wish. I cut my hand very Bradley a few years ago while rope climbing as I only had a folding knife with me which required two hands to open and didn't lock - I needed to cut some rope while still up in the air and only having this basic knife with me which the law exempts this caused me to slip and cut my hand quite badly. Had I used a spring assisted opening knife or a one handed opening knife which locked the consequences of that day would have been much better.

We do have serious problems surrounding knives, we have the misunderstanding of what styles of knives there are, how those laws are interpreted and what to do about why knives are being used. Knives and weapons are inanimate objects they are driven by the user of such either for good or evil, but to attribute blame onto knives isn't going to save any more lives from being destroyed through ill intent or otherwise. The ready availability of the humble knife is just right there in every home, or hanging up in the local shop. The use of knives is the by product of something greater which is going on - Drug wars and gang related culture, stopping sale to 18 year olds or stopping sales online altogether will not stop was is going on in London, this will merely be a slight distraction to the greater problem which can be circumvented through much easier means. I see and hear so often as I have done through the first sitting and second sitting of this bill so much blissful ignorance of knives so often referred to as lethal weapons on our streets when in fact they are the very foundations of which our existence has evolved. Knives are not lethal, they have no personalities they are just inanimate objects driven solely by the intent of the user.

I have spent over thirty years collecting knives and weapons for my own personal use or pleasure, many items have remained locked up within my home, and government now want to take many of these items from me under the new proved changes to the law of having certain items, me neither at home. With no valued reasoning behind their thoughts other than they can't understand why anyone would want to have such items at home or what other possible use are they other than to inflict pain or hurt against someone. -

my collection is my hobby, it's what I'm interested in and certainly doesn't affect anyone else or can be a danger to anyone else. Any reasonable person who was told that someone else has a collection at home for their own pleasure would not agree that taking it away on the grounds that the government believe it's in their interests to do so because they can't understand why anyone would want to collect such items.

The very same reasoning behind trying to ban .50 calibre rifles also stands, this type of gun has never been used in any form of criminal activity, it's totally ludicrous to even think about removing it from existence with nothing credible or meaningful to back it up.

Corrosive substances.

I believe this will be the next generation of weapon choice, again household bleach along with many other corrosive substances are available from right under the drawer which has the knives in. You can ban all the substances in the world, these people will circumvent any bans you put in front of them while greatly inconveniencing or worse the legitimate users of such products.

You are tar brushing by default many thousands of people who legitimately use guns, knives and corrosives alike with little to no understanding of the implications of how you are destroying perfectly good people with a positive intent.

The route cause of all of these issues surrounds the criminal gangs and drug dealers, saying that the proposed changes will be a welcome start to sorting out the issues is totally wrong this will make no change whatsoever to those people but a massive impact to those who really actually care about life.

I don't agree with any of the proposed changes, and I certainly don't agree with how case law has evolved knife law into one of which makes the legitimate user of knives have to use a less safer knife through default, to just stand up in the House of Commons act suggest we need to rid the streets of leather weapons is not going to eradicate the real growing problems surrounding what is really going on. You can bluff the public and even yourselves for a while but this is not going to go away until you sort out the drugs, the gangs and the culture surrounding this issue.

I propose that you look at repealing the offence of having a lock knife in a public place from the criminal justice act 1988 and that the proposed changes regarding sale of knives online and redefining a flick knife are removed.

I have always offered to come over to London to help discuss these matters, and in the 7 years that I've been trying to get a fair deal for knife users and a better understanding of the law - no one has ever asked for help. I've tried to speak with Victoria Atkins (minister) and I just get a standard reply from home office with ridiculous comments about the state of society.

It's unbelievable and inconceivable to assume that the proposed changes are for the better protection of public safety, if you really want to make a change then why don't you really start getting some expert help. MPs and ministers are not experts in understanding knives, guns or corrosive substances.

You will be doing yourself, your children and society a great injustice by assuming the proposed changes are actually meaningful and are going to help.

July 2018

 

Prepared 17th July 2018