3" or 76.2mm Non locking pocket knife blade length or cutting edge ?

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  • Recent debate on EM has had me thinking with regard the subject of carrying sub 3" non locking pocket knives. We've since been approached by forum members asking us which they should use as their benchmark.I'm uncomfortable with the possibility that word of law & it's inference can be confused as the consequences may be severe.

    Section 139, subsection's 2 & 3:
    139 Offence of having article with blade or point in public place.
    (2)Subject to subsection (3) below, this section applies to any article which has a blade or is sharply pointed except a folding pocketknife.
    (3)This section applies to a folding pocketknife if the cutting edge of its blade exceeds 3 inches.

    The above is the correct worded version in law.

    The link I refer to is this one that is updated by the Home office.
    Basic laws on knives. It is illegal to:

    Sell a knife to anyone under 18 (16 to 18 year olds in Scotland can buy cutlery and kitchen knives) unless it’s a knife with a folding blade 3 inches long (7.62 cm) or less, eg a Swiss Army knife.

    Carry a knife in public without good reason - unless it’s a knife with a folding blade 3 inches long (7.62 cm) or less

    The 2 examples cited above are potentially confusing. EM would wish to put our thoughts to the 2 versions above for the following reasons.

    1. EM is a Public Forum. Anyone can see what we contribute here !

    2. Police officers on the street could be ignorant of the detail of law on knives but they may argue that Joe Public are pretty ignorant of most of the other laws they have to enforce. In plain terms, we feel it far less likely that casual carry of a non locking pocket knife with a blade of 3" or 76.2mm will get you in trouble than a knife with a cutting edge of 3" or 76.2mm.

    3. I'm not a legal man but in plain terms, I see "Intent", "wording", & "spirit of the law". "Intent "is the purpose of the law introduced f. The "wording" of that law may not be robust & allow for interpretation, this leads to the "spirit of the law" being stretched, be it progress in technology or otherwise.

    The Authorities eventually become aware of this. They may attempt to enforce "Intent" if or when "wording" fails. For example our executive Border & Customs Agency are actively engaging in this thinking with respect to knives imho. Eventually, someone will either test case & fail setting the precedent in law, or they will revisit the knife laws in entirety as is currently underway with the 1968 Firearms act & revisions.

    In light of the above & in keeping with the good intent of this Forum, we suggest that it's better to let others test the law re : blade length versus cutting edge. That's not going to be any of us !
    Most knife makers & manufacturers making UK legal carry non locking pocket knives all do so where their blades do not exceed 76,2mm or 3".
    I see this as reasonable guidance to those having a use for a non lock every day carry pocket knife & within the spirit of the law.

    The scenario of suggesting the cutting edge be no more than 76.2mm could easily be distorted. You could have a blade with 7 x 10mm cutting edges interspersed by 5mm gaps making the 10mm edges into toothed serrations followed by a 5mm pointed tip ! The total length of blade could be 105mm long & even longer !

    The wording of the law may not be your friend in this case. The "intent" is clear in my non legal mind & that you are best to stay within the "spirit of the law" To that end, a non locking pocket knife is one which has a blade of 3" or 76.2mm or less.

    My apologies for the Waffle.
    Bruce will be along shortly to tweak speelings & Grammer jew ot my yewsless browser, poor eyesight & small screen... ;)

  • It's a point of law, so even if plod doesn't get it, and the desk passes it and cps go for it, it should still get raised in court and if every thing else is fine you'd be free to go. This would spoil your day and give you ulcers for a while but thats the way it SHOULD happen as a worse case.

    I keep meaning to write an article on "EDC risk assessment" but basically you need to personally take ownership of your carry and decide for yourself what your comfort levels of carry are?" Paranoid equals 2 inch blade SAK Bliase equals do what thou wilt.

  • Just read back your post and I think I can see the issue.

    The first bit is the actual law.

    The second bit @.GOV is guidance. We get it in environmental law, what the EA want you to do and what you think you should do is different, it's up to you whether you want the argument but .Gov is just that guidance skewed towards government thinking.

  • Think you may be making a mountain out of a molehill here...

    Take a serrated blade, now measure the depth of every single serration and your 3 inch blade magically becomes a 4.5 inch blade ?

    I don't think there is a copper or a lawmaker in the country would hold you to that.

    On the other hand a 5 inch blade with only 3 inches of it actually sharpened would still land you in hot water.

    IMHO a pen knife with a blade slightly shorter than 3 inches is plenty for pen knifey tasks, for harder work a lock or a fixed blade knife renders the whole blade length argument irrelevant, you have a reason, just use the right knife for the task.

    What I really don't get is makers who deliberately push as close to 3 inches as they think they can get away with, just seems a silly risk to be taking to have your knife declared "over 3 inches" and useless for normal daily carry.


  • without getting into the word of the law I think the idea to keep a UK edc knive's blade under 3" and the cutting edge under that too is a good idea. But then again, I sometimes leave the house forgetting I've a locker in my pocket.

  • Really ?
    I happen to agree & this exact scenario & the 5" blade with 3" cutting edge was recently discussed in another thread here.
    However, you are not reading my thread fully & the word of the law cited mentions the measured cutting edge only, not the blade length !

  • Indeed, being blunt, but otherwise getting to the point, I'd suggest the thrust of government thinking was along the lines of not wishing to easily penetrate body parts deeper than 3" - therefore, in the presumed spirit of this law, a pointy sharp blade over 3" long and regardless of only a 3" cutting edge, will very much/likely land you in serious poo...


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  • There is no doubt that, at present, the current law on the statute books in Scotland, and I'm pretty sure England too, is that a folding pocket knife with a cutting edge of 3" or less, is an exception to the general rule re the carrying of knives, and does not require the carrier to provide or have a specific reason for carrying such an item. The statutory exception (at least in Scotland) does not specifically refer to non locking folding pocket knives, rather it merely refers to folding knives, however, courts, both north and south of the border, have handed down identical decisions, upheld on appeal, that a locking folding penknife is to all intents and purposes a fixed blade and, as a result, the only exception, though as stated above, not specified in stature, is a non locking knife with a cutting edge of 3 inches or less.

    With this in mind, I could not agree more that, notwithstanding the wording. "cutting edge", due to the dubiety concerning the exact meaning of these words, how they could be viewed and interpreted, coupled with the general ignorance of the police on all matters knife related, it is always, in my opinion, by far the safest method to adopt to ensure the entire blade length, cutting or not, is no more than 3 inches. I have recently ordered an FF with a half-choil in the blade and have given the maker specific instructions that the blade, together with the half-choil in the blade, be, in total, definitely no more than 3 inches, even though this will leave the actual cutting edge just a little over 2 inches. There is never, ever any point in leaving oneself open to those who are already far too willing to construe matters to suit themselves, and deprive us of carrying any type of penknife at all.

    Pax vobiscum


  • Agreed Steve, a 3" measurement from end of scale to tip would have simplified things somewhat, but I think that that is what most people go for anyway, better to err on the safe side.

    "This is my rifle.There are many like it, but this one is mine"


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  • Don't get me started on knife law and how idiots ruin it for all us :cursing: i would just like to carry a tool that has a lock for safety.Plus it rules out so many cool custom knives to edc! In regards to this thread :lol: I lean more towards the cutting edge being no more then 3 inches.Thats the wording under section 139 so I'd go with that.Would I carry a 5 inch blade with a 3 inch cutting edge? Hell no ! But I did make a folder few weeks back with a 3.2 inch blade total cutting edge was 2.9.I was comfortable saying it was UK friendly carry.All that said I know many policeman,and half of them are unsure about that law and would have to phone their skipper in their words :lol: In my office at work they come in and I show them fix blades I'm working on that I've brought to work in my bag to look at and they haven't arrested me yet :rolleyes: in fact I sold a couple to some pcso :D

  • I wrote to my MP about this as tightening laws doesn't actually stop people who intend to break the law.

    Dear Mr Vickers,
    I find myself in a quandary in that I have carried a Leatherman multi-tool for most of my working life and have been informed by a colleague that I have been breaking the law due to the tool having a locking blade, which is essential to safety.

    I have done a little research on the matter and due to and discovered this...

    For those with an interest in the law, the locking knife 'ban' comes from case law, a misinterpretation of statute law and a cocked-up appeal; there is no parliamentary statute in the UK that mentions lock knives at all. The original case was Harris v DPP and Deegan v Regina was the appeal that failed on a technicality, causing the ban to be upheld.

    Mr John Patten, The Minister of State at the Home Office, explained the Government thinking [behind section 139 of the criminal Justice Act] saying 'When the Bill was printed for the other place [House of Lords], we arrived at the original formulation of the clause mindful of the important and pressing need to ensure that Stanley knives and other knives with sliding blades which can lock open and do terrible damage, should not benefit from the exemption. We do not believe that someone should be allowed to produce from his pocket a sharp bladed instrument of 3 in or less, which has a flick effect or a gravity effect or slides out and can then be locked into place. .... In our discussions with the manufacturers with whom we have consulted widely in the interests of industry and employment in Sheffield, it emerged that we could catch those vicious sliding knives, while at the same time exempting ordinary pocket knives that lock into the open position, which
    is what the amendment seeks to do. Folding, locking pocket knives, which I am advised that many people carry because they are safer to use than the non-locking variety, will be excepted from the general offence, which is right, but the exception will apply only to folding pocket knives with a sharpened blade of 3 in or less. ..... We wish to keep within the law those people who carry ordinary pocket knives. When an officer finds a person in possession of a pocket knife in a public place he has only to check the length of the blade and ensure that the knife folds. If the knife does not fulfil those criteria, the possessor will have to show a good reason for having the knife with him'.

    So the law as written aimed to allow a folding knife that locked and was in common use at the time (the lock being for safety) to be legal to carry, but a flick or gravity knife that locked or a sliding lock knife like the carpet or Stanley knife would be illegal without reasonable excuse.
    The judge in the Harris case got this wrong, or was advised wrongly and assumed that folding had to mean folding at any time, so in one fell swoop he outlawed the very knives Parliament aimed to allow on the streets. No leave to appeal was granted.

    Is there some way of getting this law updated? 40-something year old engineers shouldn't have to worry about getting a criminal record for something like this and there are many anecdotes of mechanics having their multi-tool seized. Mine is over £130 to purchase and I shouldn't have to worry about this either.


    Gareth Owen

  • Indeed, being blunt, but otherwise getting to the point, I'd suggest the thrust of government thinking was along the lines of not wishing to easily penetrate body parts deeper than 3" - therefore, in the presumed spirit of this law, a pointy sharp blade over 3" long and regardless of only a 3" cutting edge, will very much/likely land you in serious poo...

    Agreed @Chui, what many who do not regularly spend time in court fail to grasp is that judges are acutely aware that the wording of any given law cannot ever be 100% sufficient to achieve it's intended purpose when applied to every single situation. They look for the spirit or intent of a piece of legislation and apply that to the case being considered hopefully with a modicum of common sense.

    The spirit of the folding pocket knife provision in s.139 is widely interpreted to allow the public to carry a SAK or a traditional slip-joint for odd jobs. A key element of that interpretation being that these types of knives are tools and are very ineffective as weapons (as they are more likely to harm the user when used in a stabbing motion).

    I suspect that possession of some modern sub 3 inch slipjoints where a choil or finger guard allows the knife to be safely used as a stabbing weapon (without risk of injury to the user) would result in a conviction in some instances. This doesn't appear to have been tested yet. :/

    A good sharp edge is a man's best hedge against the vague uncertainties of life - Corb Lund

  • Martin Vickers MP wrote:

    Dear Mr Owen,

    Thank you for your further email in connection with the folding knife issue. I will approach the Home Office to check whether or not they are considering changes.

    I'll be back in touch when I receive a reply.

  • I have been stopped and searched countless times , and some of those times I have had a knife in a pocket or in a backpack . I AM ALWAYS CONSCIOUS of what knife I have and WHY .As my experiences indicate there is a grey area ( I refer only to England) From Chefs knives to non/locking knives with cutting edges ranging from 50mm-80mm+ .. So I have been fortunate to meet reasonable policemen who understand me when I quote..." carry a knife in public without good reason - unless it’s a knife with a folding blade 3 inches long (7.62cm) or less" the words "WITHOUT GOOD REASON " tend to clarify the legal situation at the time . None of my knives are banned knives , so from my experiences and research ..... (

    It is illegal to carry any sharp or bladed instrument in a public place (with the exception of a folding pocket knife, which has a blade that is less than 7.62 cm (3 inches)).

    A lock knife is not a folding pocket knife and therefore it is illegal to carry around such a knife regardless of the length of the blade (if you do not have reasonable excuse). A lock knife means a knife which is similar to a folding knife, in that there is a spring holding the blade closed. However, a lock knife has a mechanism which locks the blade in position when fully extended, the blade cannot be closed without that mechanism being released. A lock knife is not an offensive weapon per se (because these knives were made with a specific purpose in mind and not as a weapon). However, possession of a lock knife in a public place WITHOUT REASONABLE EXCUSE is an offence).. the word REASONABLE is quite important in keeping things in perspective . e:g I remain REASONABLE when acquainting over zealous and unreasonable policemen with the ACTUAL WORDING and scope of present legislation.. No further comments M'lud...;-)