Concealed or otherwise is it legal for a private citizen to carry any kind of weapon for self defence purposes in the UK?

  • 2
    I think you'll need to focus this question down further. In particular, what do you mean by "weapon"? Obviously there are some objects that could be used as weapons and can legally be carried (rocks, umbrellas, soft cushions) and others that are not legal (bazookas, nuclear warheads). Also, the part about reasoning is likely off topic for this site (though you could take it to Politics.SE); Parliament doesn't have to explain its reasoning when it creates laws. Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 21:43
  • @NateEldredge but a wise parliament does do so if they want the judiciary to apply those laws in light of their reasons.
    – Dale M
    Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 21:59
  • 3
    The stated reasoning behind laws is a topic for Politics.SE. But the rest of the question is not, which is why I rejected the migration to Politics.SE. Law.SE community, please tell Ben what laws apply to weapon carrying in the UK. He can then go to Politics.SE and ask why these laws exist.
    – Philipp
    Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 16:05
  • If one could legally carry a jar of marmalade for "self defence purposes," would that satisfy your question? I realize that seems facetious, but it isn't; I'm asking for clarification of "any kind of weapon." In other words, if there exists at least one weapon that may be legally carried in the UK, does that mean that the answer to your question is "yes"? I'm asking because there are certainly weapons that may not be carried legally, so if you are asking whether such purpose allows one to carry a weapon (no matter what kind), the answer is "no."
    – phoog
    Commented Nov 14, 2017 at 22:45
  • Yes (ten more chars)
    – 52d6c6af
    Commented Nov 15, 2017 at 1:38

3 Answers 3


JeffUK has quoted the relevant law. However the question then becomes "what is an 'offensive weapon'", and "what is a lawful excuse?".

So the answer to the OP's original question:

Is it legal for a private citizen to carry any kind of weapon for self defence purposes in the UK?

is "No".


Technically, no, you must have have reasonable excuse or lawful or authority to carry a weapon in public and 'Self Defense' is not normally a reasonable excuse.

However if you mean 'Can I do it without fear of prosecution' then the answer is 'Yes' as long as you can provide a reasonable excuse when asked why you are carrying the weapon.

It's a very nuanced piece of law, the definition of a 'weapon' extends to practically any physical item. It could be both illegal to carry a butter knife, and legal to carry a large machete depending on the circumstances.

Possessing an offensive weapon in a public place is an offence contrary to s 1 of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953.

To satisfy the charge, the prosecution must prove each of the following elements:

  • has with him (possession);
    • in any public place;
    • any offensive weapon.

Having established all of the above, the charge would succeed, unless the accused proves that he had either:

  • lawful authority;
    • or reasonable excuse.


  • Note that "lawful excuse" is something like "I am taking this baseball bat to play baseball", not "I want it for self-defense". Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 17:27
  • @MartinBonner updated answer to reflect the subtlety of the legal position.
    – JeffUK
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 17:36
  • Sorry. Hadn't realized this was so old. Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 18:54
  • @MartinBonner no worries, SE answers are forever, no harm in improving them from time to time.
    – JeffUK
    Commented Dec 6, 2018 at 8:19


The maximum penalty for an adult carrying a knife is 4 years in prison and an unlimited fine. You’ll get a prison sentence if you’re convicted of carrying a knife more than once.

  • 1
    Are "self defence purposes" (quoted from the question) acceptable as "good reason" (quoted from your source) for carrying a knife in public? I would guess not.
    – phoog
    Commented Nov 14, 2017 at 20:12
  • The OP asked about "any kind of weapon," which presumably includes pepper spray and ball-point pens. Commented Nov 14, 2017 at 20:35
  • 1
    @phoog: If you anticipate a situation where you would want a weapon for self defense, then you should go out of your way to avoid that situation. Not go into that situation with a weapon.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Nov 14, 2017 at 21:49
  • I absolutely agree, but since we're at Law it seems worthwhile to point out that for certain knives at least, the answer to the question depends on whether a court could find "self defence" to be a "good reason," which you have not addressed.
    – phoog
    Commented Nov 14, 2017 at 22:39
  • @RobertHarvey perhaps the question is too broad, because it seems that the answer is that some articles are forbidden, while others are not.
    – phoog
    Commented Nov 14, 2017 at 22:40

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