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I stumbled on this article (may be NSFW or disturbing), which states about the defendant in a case from 2004:

The court heard that [defendant] had [a previous conviction] for possession of a screwdriver, which he said was for protection.

This made me wonder: Was the mere possession of a screwdriver really illegal in the UK? And if yes, do most Britons not have screwdrivers at home? Searching the Internet, I could find that carrying a screwdriver might be considered illegal if one had no good reason to do so, but nothing about mere possession.

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    Without knowing UK law very well, I'd imagine that the more general crime may have been an assault charge, perhaps by attempting to stab someone with alleged screwdriver. Desperate or determined people can make almost anything pointy into a weapon.
    – phyrfox
    Aug 19 at 21:35
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    Anything becomes a weapon when used as weapon, or carried to be used as one.
    – Michael
    Aug 19 at 22:19
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    Might just be a bad comma. Prosecution for "...possession of a screwdriver which he said was for protection" would make more sense as the accused had specified that he viewed the screwdriver as a weapon and not as a tool, which would bring possession for legitimate purposes into question. Aug 20 at 17:07
  • Dependent on context. If you repair cars and have a screw driver in your toolbox that's one thing. If you have just been released from jail after serving a long sentence for stabbing someone with a screwdriver, and you are driving to where a witness lives while in possession of a screwdriver...
    – gnasher729
    Sep 8 at 16:35

1 Answer 1

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Was or is possession of screwdriver illegal in the UK?

Yes, if the screwdriver's intended purpose is for a criminal act.

There's not enough detail in the article, but the most likely scenarios are:

  • Offensive Weapon, contrary to section 1 Prevention of Crime Act 1953:

(1)Any person who without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, the proof whereof shall lie on him, has with him in any public place any offensive weapon shall be guilty of an offence ...

[...]

(4)In this section “ public place ” includes any highway, or in Scotland any road within the meaning of the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984 and any other premises or place to which at the material time the public have or are permitted to have access, whether on payment or otherwise; and "offensive weapon” means any article made or adapted for use for causing injury to the person, or intended by the person having it with him for such use by him or by some other person.

  • Going Equipped to steal, contrary to section 25 Theft Act 1968:

(1)A person shall be guilty of an offence if, when not at his place of abode, he has with him any article for use in the course of or in connection with any burglary or theft.

(2)A person guilty of an offence under this section shall on conviction on indictment be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years.

(3)Where a person is charged with an offence under this section, proof that he had with him any article made or adapted for use in committing a burglary or theft shall be evidence that he had it with him for such use.

[...]

(5)For purposes of this section an offence under section 12(1) of this Act of taking a conveyance shall be treated as theft.

  • Possession with intent to destroy or damage property, contrary to section 3 Criminal Damage Act 1971:

A person who has anything in his custody or under his control intending without lawful excuse to use it or cause or permit another to use it—

  • (a)to destroy or damage any property belonging to some other person; or

  • (b)to destroy or damage his own or the user’s property in a way which he knows is likely to endanger the life of some other person;

shall be guilty of an offence. [with a maximum sentence of 10 years]

NB in this jurisdiction, possession of a weapon for self-protection is not, except in some very narrow circumstances, a reasonable excuse to carrying one.

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  • How would it be proved that "the person having it with him" "intended" to "caus[e] injury to [a] person"?
    – Someone
    Aug 19 at 21:44
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    @Someone By the evidence
    – Rick
    Aug 19 at 21:45
  • So you don't need a reasonable excuse to possess a screwdriver in public as long as you don't intend to cause injury to a person?
    – Someone
    Aug 19 at 21:48
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    Re: possession. Sorry, I was confusing terminology from another Act. "Has with him" is the one here, which is probably what the MSM news article did as well.
    – Rick
    Aug 19 at 22:18
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    Re: wider meaning. "Carrying" can suggest it can only e.g. be in a pocket, bag or hand, whereas "has with him" could mean that but also e.g. under a car seat or in a pram or on the floor by his feet etc.
    – Rick
    Aug 19 at 22:25

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