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Posts Tagged ‘possession of an offensive weapon’

When Does Something Become An Offensive Weapon?

Helen Newman of Forrest Williams

Helen Newman of Forrest Williams

When does something become an Offensive Weapon?

We recently represented an individual charged with Possession of an Offensive Weapon. The ‘weapon’ being a rounders bat. He had the item with him during the day as he travelled to university and then used the weapon during the course of a disagreement.

When I walk the dog at night I carry a large flashlight – probably similar in weight and the damage it could inflict on a person if used in such a way – so at what stage does a seemingly innocuous item become a ‘weapon’?

The law concerning this is contained within the Prevention of Crime Act 1953 and in order to satisfy the charge, the prosecution must prove that the defendant:

  1. Has with him (possession);
  2. In any public place;
  3. Any offensive weapon

So proving he has it with him seems relatively easy, so we must consider if it is a public place – this is generally held to be a place to which the general public can gain access without obstruction. The key here is determining that the defendant is carrying an ‘offensive weapon’. The courts will be looking to see if there is reasonable excuse to be in possession of the item, if the item was used to cause fear or to threaten an individual or if there were plans in place to use the item to threaten or cause fear.

So on this basis a set of kitchen knives, purchased from the supermarket and placed in a handbag to take home, though clearly holding the potential for use as an offensive weapon would not constitute an offensive weapon for the purposes of the offence because their carrying could be justified and explained. A person could not however place a knife in their bag because they knew they would be walking home alone later. Similarly a sportsman en route to a fixture could carry his equipment with him both there and back but could not carry the same items if their intended use was for something other than use in their associated sport.

Our client was headed to university to sit an exam. When asked why he had the bat with him he said it reassured him to know it was there. You see, our client was recovering from a serious physical assault which had hospitalised him and for which he was still receiving treatment and required further surgical procedures. So being reassured by the presence of the bat in his bag is more understandable than it may first sound, but, in the eyes of the law it became an offensive weapon because its intended use was to cause harm (albeit to prevent further injury to himself).

Our client was sentenced to 4 months custody suspended for 2 years, and had a court imposed curfew (tagged) for 60 days and was very happy with the outcome as an immediate custodial sentence had been avoided.

If you are charged with an offence, give the Forrest Williams Team a call on 01623 397200 and we would be happy to have a chat with you about your situation and the circumstances of your offence and advise you further.


Possession of a Knife or Offensive Weapon

Possession of a Knife or Offensive Weapon


Possession of a knife or offensive weapon is a serious offence.  The Criminal Justice System dealt with almost 4,000 of these cases in the fourth quarter of 2014 (from October to December).


While the incidences of this offence peaked in 2008 at over 7,000 cases, the reduction in the incidences now appears to have leveled off, and the figures for the October to December period have tended to be lower than the previous months.


These crimes are mainly committed by adults (81%) and in just under a third of cases, an immediate custodial sentence was imposed, with one in five cases resulting in a suspended sentence.


Worrying statistics for defendants are the facts that the number of offenders given cautions is reducing over time, and juvenile offenders are now more likely to receive an immediate custodial sentence, with 1 in every 10 now being sent to prison for possession of a knife or offensive weapon offences.


Defendants convicted of offences that involve the possession of an item that has a blade or point are more likely to be given an immediate custodial sentence than those convicted of offences involving other offensive weapons, with the average custodial offence being for 224 days.


The length of custodial sentences imposed is increasing over time, with the average custodial sentence in October-December 2007 standing at 71% shorter, at 131 days.


Unsurprisingly, defendants convicted who have previous convictions or cautions for possession offences are dealt with more harshly by the courts and are more likely to receive custodial sentences.  For defendants with at least one previous possession offence on their record, 45% were sentenced to immediate custody in the 12 months to December 2014.


The relatively new offence of aggravated knife possession came into force on 3 December 2012, and in the 12 months to December 2014, there had been a total of 426 incidences of this, with 330 incidences by adults and 96 by juveniles.  For offenders aged 16 or over, 60% received immediate custodial sentences.


In total, as at 26 December 2014, there were 404 people serving custodial sentences for possession of an offensive weapon.


These statistics highlight how important it is that you receive expert legal advice if you are charged with possession of a knife or offensive weapon.  Call our dedicated team now on 01623 397200 and get the experts on your side.

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