Blades - length, samurai swords and lock knives: frequently asked questions

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  • How do you measure the length of the blade?

    The length of the blade is the straight line distance from the top of the handle to the tip of the blade.
  • I have a sword with a curved blade, which I already owned before the ban was introduced. Do I have to surrender my sword?

    Section 141 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 does not prohibit the possession of a sword with a curved blade. It provides that is an offence to manufacture, sell or hire, offer for sale or hire, or lend or give to any other person a sword with a curved blade of 50 centimetres or over in length.

    However, it should be noted that, under section 1 of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953, it is an offence to have an offensive weapon in a public place without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, and, under section 139 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, it is an offence to have an article with a blade or point in a public place without lawful authority or good reason.

  • Can I bring a samurai sword into the UK or buy one in the UK?

    You may be able to bring a samurai sword into the UK, or buy a samurai sword in the UK, if one of the available statutory defences applies to the conduct relating to the sword. It will need to be shown that the weapon in question:

    • was made before 1954 or was made at any other time according to traditional methods of making swords by hand; or
    • is to be made available for the organisation and holding a historical re-enactment  or sporting activity  for which public liability insurance is held in relation to liabilities to third parties arising from or in connection with the organisation or holding such an activity; or
    • is to be made available for use in religious ceremonies

    Or you would need to show that the weapon was manufactured 100 years before the date of any alleged offence. Whether an offence has been committed in a particular case will be a matter for the courts to determine.

  • Can I buy or bring into the UK a sword with a curved blade if the blade does not exceed 50 centimetres in length?

    The prohibition under section 141 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 only applies to curved bladed swords if the blade exceeds 50 centimetres in length.

    If the item is being imported you must satisfy Border Force or HMRC that defences apply to the conduct relating to the specific article (see Imports - which defences apply to the import, manufacture, sell or hire etc of an offensive weapon?)

    If you need further information on the importation of an offensive weapon for which defences may apply, you need to contact the HMRC helpline and provide specifics of the item you want to import and why you believe an exception may apply in this case.

    HMRC helpline: 0845 010 9000
    Lines are open Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

    You can read about what to do if your things are seized by HMRC - Public Notice 12A sets out your right of appeal, and who to contact when goods are seized at the border.

  • Can I bring into the UK a sword if only one of the edges is curved?

    The legislation does not specify that both edges must be curved. The Home Office cannot advise on whether a specific piece of legislation would apply in an individual case. This is a matter for the courts, and not for the Home Office.
  • Can I bring a sword with a curved blade into the UK for religious purposes?

    You may be able to bring this item into the UK if you are able to satisfy Border Force or HM Revnue & Customs (HMRC) that the article is to be made available for use in religious ceremonies. However, it is a matter for the courts whether this defence applies in a particular case.

    If you need further information on the importation of an offensive weapon and the available defences, you need to contact the HMRC helpline and provide specifics of the item you want to import and why you believe an exception may apply in this case.

    HMRC helpline: 0845 010 9000
    Lines are open Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

    You can read about what to do if your things are seized by HMRC - Public Notice 12A sets out your right of appeal, and who to contact when goods are seized at the border.

  • Are lock knives prohibited items? The lock mechanism is there merely to make the knife safe to use.

    A lock knife is similar to a folding pocket knife, but it has a mechanism which locks the blade in position when fully extended. The courts have held that if a knife is secured in the open position by a locking device, it is not a folding pocket knife within section 139 because it is not immediately foldable at all times by virtue of the folding process (see R v Deegan [1998] 2 Cr. App. R. 121 CA).