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In 2017 there was an alarming rise in acid attacks that shocked us all. Britain has now got one of the world’s highest rates of attacks and 2017 saw the most incidents ever being recorded.

After many campaigns called on the Government to take action to end these attacks, many UK retailers banned the sale of corrosive acid or alkaline products to under 18s. Retailers such as Tesco and B&Q signed up to the voluntary ban and the UK government banned people from carrying corrosive liquids in public.

The UK actually has quite a long list of things that you can’t carry in public – if anything it’s surprising it’s taken this long for corrosive substances to make the list.

In short, if you carry any weapon, then it counts as pre-meditation.

Here are a few of the other items – some surprising, some more obvious – that you cannot carry in public in the UK.

Knives and sharp items

Section 139 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 makes it an offence to have “any article which has a blade or is sharply pointed” in a public place. A knife whose blade can be locked open is also illegal to carry, however long the blade is.

In general, you can defend a charge if you had lawful authority or good reasons for having the item on you. For example, if you bought a kitchen knife and were stopped carrying it on the way home then you have a good reason for having a knife on you. If you bought a kitchen knife and claim you forgot, and left it in your bag, then you won’t have a defence.

It’s important to mention that even though some items might not be named on Section 139 of the Criminal Justice, courts have held that there are three types of offensive weapons that you could be charged if stopped and carrying them.

  1. Items that were produced for use as weapons.
  2. Items that have been adapted in some way for use as a weapon.
  3. Items that usually have an innocent purpose but are being carried with the intention of hurting someone.

In other words, just about anything can be deemed as a dangerous, unlawful, offensive weapon in a certain situation.

The only type of knife that is excluded is the folding pocketknife, which must have a blade three inches or less.

Baseball bats – and anything that could be a weapon

Just to illustrate the above point, if something could be used as a weapon, then you need a really good reason to be carrying it on the street in the UK. A baseball bat is a great example. You’d need to be able to prove that you were on your way to a baseball game – and even if that’s the case, you would probably be better off keeping it in a bag!

Pepper spray

Pepper spray in the UK is considered an offensive weapon, which makes it illegal to own and carry.

There are pepper spray alternatives that are made to be legal in the UK and can be bought in many UK stores. These alternative sprays don’t contain chemicals or any other toxic substances.

Although these products are legal it is still advised to only be used in self – defence and in accordance with the law.

Gardening tools

Just like knives, under the Criminal Justice Act 1988 anyone who has a pointed or bladed item in public is guilty of an offence unless there is good reasoning or lawful authority.

If you are carrying sharp tools because of your occupation, then you have good reasons if stopped and searched.  Leaving or forgetting sharp tools in the car or in your pocket for when you will next need them, that is not reasonable.

To conclude, carrying dangerous items in public must be in connection with the activity for which it is needed in order to be legal.

Ladders and planks of wood (London only)

Yes, really! In London, it is illegal to carry a ladder or a plank of wood (and various other large items) along the street.

As anybody who’s ever seen Laurel and Hardy or the Three Stooges will tell you, ladders can cause huge injury if care is not taken! There is a potential fine of £500 under Section 54 of the Metropolitan Police Act 1839.


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