Offensive Weapons Bill

Written evidence submitted by Roger Harrington (OWB55)

First off I should declare my interests in this bill are commercial as I have been a custom knife maker for the last twenty years. Trading as Bison Bushcraft I have made high end bespoke cutlery for customers all over the world including to a greater percentage the UK. My business is focussed on the use of cutlery for sporting, bushcraft, wilderness expedition  and woodcraft purposes. We are not in the business of supplying weapons, only tools.

We are a "cottage industry" trading from home and selling either through our website or face to face at various public shows such as game fairs.

We already ask for proof of age upon purchase via a distance selling medium. Be it telephone or internet we email a request for some form of age verifying documentation to be emailed or texted to us. This could be a passport, driving licence or other form of relevant ID. As a small business this is done manually after order as we are not big enough and don’t turn over enough trade to warrant dedicated software to do this automatically. The relevance of this was brought home on discussion with recent conversations with Trading Standards personnel who were involved in Operation Sceptre. They only took their test transactions as far as checkout and then cancelled. Had they left their transactions live for a few hours or even over the weekend, they would have seen stock age verification responses from such companies as ours.

My interests in the new Bill are mainly centred around the mail order of knives in sections 12-18, and its impact on legitimate and law abiding traders such as myself.

I was involved to a certain extent in your consultation period regarding this Bill and felt at the end of that period we had conveyed some relevant information enabling you to go ahead with sensible proposed updates to the offensive weapons legislation currently in place. 

Some of those points were

1) Professional traders such as myself are already acting within the current law by doing all we can to only sell to customers of the right age.

2) Expensive knives such as those that I make are not the weapons of choice for violent crime.

3) Violent crime is what it is and as such the perpetrators of such crime will use any weapon without regard to the law. This bill will only have a negative effect on the already law abiding such as ourselves and not have any impact on violent crime.

4) We would welcome a standardised and maybe a Police or Government organised system of online age/ID confirmation.

5) The World Wide Web is just that and I fail to see how you could impose such legislation on sales from outside of The UK? Therefore any proposed legislation would only have a negative impact on current legitimate traders.

Further to these points, upon reading the new bill it is relevant that none of these points have been taken into consideration. When I say reading the bill I should say attempting to read as it isn’t exactly clear as to what it is actually saying. It reads as if sections 12 and 15 contradict each other and that needs clarification. 

In section 16/9 The quote below should surely be used to include legitimate sporting activities such as hunting and fishing, and also some professional use could be included such as chefs and butchers? At the moment is seems the only legitimate sporting activity is combat between individuals?

"For the purposes of this section a bladed product is used by a person for relevant sporting purposes if and only if-

1. (a)  the product is used by the person to participate in a competitive sport involving combat between individuals, and

2. (b)  use of the product is an integral part of that sport. 15"

The very use of the term bladed article used throughout these sections has such a broad sweep. It could include lawnmowers, electric shavers and even pencil sharpeners. You will be creating more crime by default and more work for the already overstretched police forces across The UK. Surely the money would be better spent employing more police to act in the front line against violent crime?

Section 23/2 is quoted below, again, very ambiguous. It could be taken to mean any blade cutting edge. I would ask you to think of every article in your home that has a cutting edge that could be construed as such and you would therefore be guilty of the crime of possession. Although I am sure the intent is just toward "Zombie Knives" the reading can be mis interpreted and is very vague.

"In paragraph 1, after sub-paragraph (r) insert- 40 "(s) the weapon sometimes known as a "zombie knife", "zombie

killer knife" or "zombie slayer knife", being a blade with-

1. (i)  a cutting edge;

2. (ii)  a serrated edge; and "

In conclusion this appears to be a badly thought out and worded bill that has not taken any notice of the professional feedback given by experts in their field. It is vague, it would have no impact on crime, create more work for an already understaffed and overstretched Police Force. It would have a nothing but a negative impact on small business in The UK and favour overseas sellers of ANY bladed article.

Roger Harrington
Trading As
Bison Bushcraft

10 July 2018


Prepared 17th July 2018