Is carrying a certain knife in the UK, more specifically England, allowed? And what type of knives do these have to be? e.g. blade length.

Would carrying such knife be allowed if you do not have a valid reason to carry it such as needing it for work?


1 Answer 1


Short answer:

It depends. It is lawful if one has a lawful reason, such as it's needed for work, or it's a folding pocketknife (e.g. a Swiss Army Knife) with a blade less than 3 inches.

Long answer:

The primary legislation is s.139 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 which makes it unlawful to have in a public place:

(2) ... any article which has a blade or is sharply pointed except a folding pocketknife.

(3) .... [this includes] a folding pocketknife if the cutting edge of its blade exceeds 3 inches.

Subsection (4) gives the "good reason or lawful authority" general defence for possessing such an article which is complemented and supplemented by:

(5) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (4) above, it shall be a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to prove that he had the article with him—

  • (a)for use at work;

  • (b)for religious reasons; or

  • (c)as part of any national costume.

This site gives some more information and identifies certain knives that are banned, and this site, under "legislation", lists semi-related offences.


  • 3
    For (5)(c), does the national costume have to be of the person's own nationality? Or will any nationality do? Can you carry wear a Caribbean pirate nation costume and carry a cutlass, for example?
    – reirab
    Sep 27, 2021 at 7:36
  • 7
    @reiab IMO the use of "any" in s.139(5)(c) would not limit possession to one's own nationality. For example, it is not uncommon for non-Scots to wear a kilt to weddings in England along with a sgian-dubh. Also, I don't know (but doubt) if a pirate costume would be regarded as a national costume but if it is the onus would be on the possessor to prove it is on the balance of probabilities. (This is the lower standard used for most (all?) statutory defences.)
    – user35069
    Sep 27, 2021 at 8:04
  • 1
    and if it's like the Dutch situation, a mayor or local police commander can temporarilly declare a complete ban on knives of any kind during for example a protest march or other "high risk event".
    – jwenting
    Sep 27, 2021 at 8:17
  • 3
    @reirab I very much doubt any court would consider a pirate costume national dress
    – Tristan
    Sep 27, 2021 at 9:05
  • 3
    NOTE: Per the court of Appeal, in the UK you can carry a folding blade less than three inches only if it does not lock open: "a ‘lock knife’ does not come into the category of ‘folding pocket knife’ because it is not immediately foldable at all times; (R v Deegan [1998] 2 Cr. App. R. 121 CA)" assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/…
    – Ben
    Sep 27, 2021 at 17:36

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