Offensive Weapons Bill

Written evidence submitted by Dr Gordon Allison (OWB50)

 

1. Statement of intent

I thank the Committee for inviting me to submit my evidence for their consideration. I wish it to be understood that although I am employed by the University of Aberystwyth as a research scientist and lecturer, my activity in regards to this matter is unrelated to my work and I am acting as a private individual. I appreciate that the committee is acting in what they hope is the best interests of society as a whole and have to consider possibly opposing points of view, and I hope that my submission is at least in some part useful to them.

2. Background and interests

Outside of work I have passionate interests that I have pursued for many years, which involve the use of edged tools and implements. I hope these would be considered good activities that might be encouraged for adults and children as they often involve being out of doors, becoming familiar with natural materials, and allow the development of non-passive relaxation, which in today’s world must surely be encouraged. Mainly, I use skills classified as joinery, wood turning, carpentry and green-woodworking for the restoration of old furniture and fabrication of replacement parts, whether for private use or for my wife who is an upholsterer by trade; I also make new furniture and joinery and enjoy outdoors woodworking e.g. fencing, poultry houses, gates etc. My love of working with wood also extends to green woodcraft activities and collecting and preparing firewood for heating our home. I am also a committed field archer, I own and shoot bows at home and on a club range in Wales. I am worried that creeping legislation may one day make my hobby much more difficult to pursue as potentially bows and cross bows could be used as offensive weapons (assuming the perpetrator actually spent time learning how to use one).

3. Concerns of the impact of the proposed bill on those who work with wood

My woodworking requires me to have access to specialist tools including but not limited to axes, adzes, chisels, planes, draw knives, awls and knives. My understanding of the bill is that it would no longer possible to purchase these tools on line, but would require for me to purchase them from a shop or have them delivered to a business premises. This is just not always feasible, especially when the items may be non-standard. In many instances the more unusual tools e.g. side axes or exotic chisels and planes, may only be available from on line sources as the volume of their sale would not justify them taking up space in a physical shop. Furthermore, many tools are just no longer manufactured and the sellers of second hand tools may be the only provider. Knives for bush craft activities would be likewise limited to direct sale. Good edged tools such as knives, axes and the like may cost several hundred pounds and at their best they are made by artisan producers using methods steeped in cultural heritage. The bill could thus lead to extreme difficulty for professionals and amateurs engaged in their sale, manufacture and use.

The committee’s desire to do something to decrease or even halt the use of knives for violent crime can only be commended but there are no links that robustly correlate the availability of the sort of tools I have outlined above with the trouble we have in our inner cities. Indeed, if a criminal only needs to pick a knife from the kitchen, or purchase a cooking knife from a high-street shop to commit crime. They are unlikely to spend time and money choosing a craft item. I am concerned that in a desire to halt social problems creeping legislation is used to introduce increasingly punitive laws that are only directly affecting lawful individuals whilst not really helping to stop inner city violence. This approach is destined to fail as almost any tool can be a deadly weapon if used with ill intent. A garden spade can be a slashing weapon, a garden form a lethal trident. Are we to one day limit gardening?

I suggest that we have substantial laws in place that restrict the sale of edged tools to minors and the carrying of such items for non-legal purposes. Indeed, the law as it stands is suitably flexible for sensible interpretation by a police officer. For example, a person fishing on a local beach near where I live might legitimately have a knife in their possession because it’s necessary for the activity in which they are engaged, whilst a person not in that contextual situation might be seen as illegally carrying a weapon. I whole heartedly consider that the current laws are adequate and only need to be upheld.

Thank you for consideration of my views,

Best Regards,

Dr Gordon G. Allison

July 2018

 

Prepared 17th July 2018