November 29, 2021

Is it legal to carry a folding knife in the UK?

No, it is not legal to carry a folding knife in the UK unless it is less than 3 inches long. Using your top carving knife as a woodworking tool in your workshop is not an offense but when you are in public spaces, things change. Your folding knife cannot have a locking mechanism either.
You get a maximum penalty of 4 years in prison if you are an adult caught with a folding knife and an unlimited fine. You get a prison sentence if you are convicted of carrying a knife more than once. Let’s get into some detail.

What does the law say?

It is illegal to have a banned knife or weapon in public. That means it is also not allowed to bring it into the UK, sell, hire, lend or give someone. You cannot carry any knife in public without good reason unless it has a manual folding blade less than 3 inches long.

You cannot sell any knife to anyone under 18, with a folding blade less than 3 inches long. The chances are high that one will use the knife in a threatening way. A court will decide if you have a good reason to carry a knife or a weapon if you are charged with carrying it illegally. In other words, you are bound to be justified or not.

When can you carry a knife in public?

  • When taking knives you use at work too and from work
  • When taking it to a gallery or museum to be exhibited
  • When using it for theatre, film, television, historical re-enactment or religious purposes, for example, the kirpan some Sikhs carry
  • When used in a demonstration or to teach someone how to use it.

What is the maximum length of a knife you can carry legally?

The knife has to be less than 3 inches long and 2 inches wide. It is considered too fancy to threaten people. It is generally legal to carry a knife. There are limits on the blade in public. These include the type of knife, the length of the knife blade, and whether the knife can be concealed.
As much as all pocket knives, leathermen, and multi-tools are allowed, the blade of these knives must be under 2.5 or 3 inches. Carrying one of these knives is not allowed in courts, planes, schools, and certain buildings, restricting the possession of weapons.

What is a Lock knife?

A lock knife is different from a folding pocket knife, and it is an offense to carry around such a knife even if it is 3 inches or smaller. As much as you have a good reason, chances are very slim that you will be justified.

A lock knife comes with blades that can be locked and refolded only by pressing a button. That makes it versatile and user-friendly. When fully extended, a lock knife has a mechanism that locks the blade.

The blade cannot be closed without that mechanism released. A lock knife is not an offensive weapon since it has a specific purpose. That does not intend the use of the knife as a weapon. Possession of a lock knife in a public place without good reason is still an offense. [Ask The Police].

What is the penalty for carrying an illegal knife?

The maximum penalty for an adult carrying a knife is four years in prison and an unlimited fine. You get a prison sentence if you are convicted of carrying a knife more than once.

The stop and search law

The police can stop and question you at any time and search you depending on the situation. The police community support officer (PCSO) must be in uniform when they stop and question. Do not be answerable to a random person. If they are not in uniform, they must show you their warrant card. When the officer stops, expect questions on your name, your business in that area, and where you are going.
You do not have to stop or answer any questions for no reason.

There should be a reason to suspect you. A police officer has the power to stop and search you if they have enough reasons to suspect what you are carrying. It is not only about a knife, but it can be on illegal drugs, a weapon, stolen property, or something used to commit a crime.

You can only be stopped and searched without reasonable grounds if that has been approved by a senior police officer. You might have been suspected of starting or being involved in serious violence. That could take place, carrying a weapon or having used one, or being in a prohibited area.

Before the search, the police officer must tell you:

  • Their name and police station
  • What they expect to find
  • Reason for the search
  • Why they are legally allowed to search you
  • If you have a record of the search and the time. You can get a copy

The police have the power to remove your clothes or ask you to take off your coat, jacket, or gloves. They might ask you to take off other clothes and anything for religious reasons and take you somewhere out of public view. If the officer wants to remove more than a jacket and gloves they must be of the same sex. However, being searched does not mean you are being arrested.

What self-Defence items are legal in the UK?

  • Pepper spray
  • Rape alarm

Can I carry a Swiss Army knife UK?

It is legal to carry a Swiss army knife in the UK so long as the blade is three inches long (6.72cm) or less and the knife blade does not lockout.

What knives are banned in the UK?

  • Butterfly knives.
  • Disguised Knives.
  • Push daggers.
  • Flick knives.
  • Gravity knives.
  • Zombie knives.
  • Stealth knives.
  • Swords.


Is a folding knife illegal?

Citizens can carry a folding blade knife, but not a fixed blade, such as a dagger. The folding knife comes as a pocket knife or Swiss army knife, or utility knife. All folding knives are legal in the state and may be concealed as long as they are in the folded position.

Is carrying a pocket knife illegal?

A pocket knife is not allowed to move around within the UK. It is a dangerous weapon to the community.

David D. Hughes
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