Understanding the laws KNIFE CRIME

It is illegal for a shop to sell any kind of knife to someone under 18. This includes kitchen knives and even cutlery. It’s also illegal for shops to sell imitation guns or air weapons to anyone under 18-years-old, or to sell realistic imitation guns to anyone. You’ll be committing an offence if you buy any of these items. Possessing a knife or firearm (whether it’s yours or not) is illegal and can result in a prison sentence. Some knives are illegal for even adults to buy. The below are all categorised as offensive weapons and are completely banned:

  • Flick knives – also called ‘switchblades’ or ‘automatic knives’.
  • Butterfly knives
  • Disguised knives – in which the blade is hidden in something like a belt buckle or fake mobile phone. You can find out more about these and other types of illegal knives on the Gov.uk website

Carrying a weapon in school does not mean it is just a school matter; the police will become involved and take action. For anyone carrying a knife or a gun, including those under 16, the consequences are tough. It is illegal to carry a knife or a gun, or imitation firearm. If you are caught with a knife or a gun, regardless of whether you say it was for your own protection or you were carrying it for someone else, you will be arrested and prosecuted. Possession of a knife can carry a prison sentence of up to 4 years even if it’s not used. There’s a minimum 5-year sentence for carrying a gun if you’re over 18. If you’re under 18, you could still go to prison. If you stab somebody and they die, you will face a life sentence and will serve a minimum prison sentence of 25 years. Causing the death of someone with a gun carries a life sentence and you will serve a mandatory 30-year prison sentence. If someone is injured or killed by a knife or gun in your presence, even if you’re not the one using the weapon, you too could be prosecuted. You could be sent to prison for murder in what is referred to as ‘joint enterprise’

Basic laws on knives

It's illegal to: sell a knife to anyone under 18, unless it has a folding blade 3 inches long (7.62 cm) or less carry a knife in public without good reason, unless it has a folding blade with a cutting edge 3 inches long or less. ... use any knife in a threatening way (even a legal knife)

How long do you go to jail for carrying a knife?

The maximum sentence for carrying a knife illegally is four years in prison and an unlimited fine. If you injure someone or use a knife to commit a crime, the penalties could increase.

Is pulling a knife on someone a crime?

Someone who does this by threatening the person with a deadly weapon commits aggravated assault because the fear involved is fear of more grievous injury. For example, a pocket knife is generally not considered a lethal weapon, but if held to a victims neck, it could be deadly.

What happens if your caught with a knife?

If you get caught up in knife crime, you're not just going to get a slap on the wrists. It doesn't matter if it's for your own protection or if you are carrying a knife for someone else. Just carrying a knife can get you sent to prison for up to four years, even if you don't use it.

What is classed as a zombie knife?

Also called "zombie killer" knives, they are ornate blades sometimes printed with skulls or toxic-warning symbols inspired by horror films. The ban specifies a zombie knife has a cutting edge, a serrated edge and "images or words that suggest it is to be used for the purpose of violence".

Is it illegal to walk around with a pocket knife?

The law directs that it is illegal to carry dangerous weapons openly or concealed with intent to commit a crime. Still, it does not generally prohibit the ownership and carrying of knives. However, a switchblade knife with a blade longer than three inches is illegal.

Why should you not carry a knife?

Carrying a knife or gun is illegal. Carrying a knife or gun increases your risk of being injured. It also increases the risk of the people around you being injured, and can cause great distress and upset to your family. Police are allowed to stop and search someone if they believe a weapon is being carried.

What is the punishment for having a butterfly knife?

Using a butterfly knife for crime of any kind – as is any illegal weapon – is punishable by from 1 to 10 years imprisonment.

What is the sentence for threatening with a knife?

There is a mandatory minimum sentence of six months custody set by law for offenders who use any type of weapon to threaten. As the guideline gives the highest sentences to those offenders who threaten with knives or highly dangerous weapons, these offenders will always receive sentences greater than six month

Are You Worried? GANGS

If you are reading this now, you could already be worried that your child or someone you know is being groomed or involved in criminal activities. With the increase in the movement of drugs and the money to be made instantly, more and more young people are being drawn into the lure of making vast amounts of money. Communication around this increasing trend is becoming more and more complicated leaving many parents confused at spotting the signs early.

When a young person has been recruited into the process, it can be a very challenging time. There are many signs of grooming that often go unseen and this is where the real work begins. Organised circles of drug dealers do not care about the outcomes for your child! they are simply used to fill the rising demand for drugs and weapons.

Once they are used they are often discarded and left to deal with the consequences alone. There are countless cases of young people ending up in debt because of their involvement with these groups. The prisons are filling up with young people that believed that they were part of a friendship or even an intimate relationship.

What is a gang?

The word ‘gang’ means different things in different contexts, the government in their paper ‘Safeguarding children and young people who may be affected by gang activity’ distinguishes between peer group

Phones and other means of communication

None of the grooming process works without communication.Communication is the key driving force behinds this type of manipulation and should never be ignored. The excessive use of mobile devices to drive the increase in grooming has be one of the key factors in the simplicity in grooming. be aware of your child's phone activities.Be particularly aware of the second line, or the road phone, which will often be a cheap handset that could easily be disguised as a spare phone. You may often be told that it was found or that a friend upgraded and gave it to them for free. These second phones or 'Burners' are the crucial link to the cycle. Without this method of communication, there is little contact and certainly no way in. There are a lot of parents and carers that allow unlimited usage of mobile phones and will often give their children unlimited data packages etc. social media and its many wonders has fuelled the communication process, with many young people being targeted online In grooming gangs, it is not uncommon for a young person to be put in charge of finding others. Gangs will often recruit specific members that are in schools or colleges to befriend individuals for the groomers. they will establish rapport with them and encourage them to join their gangs or meet with groomers direct.

Friends & Associates

Always have an interest in your child's friends or associates, this is a powerful way of understanding the dynamics of the relationship. Many parents pay little attention and will often just assume that they are a natural group of friends that attend the same school, provision or college. This can be so far from the truth, as young people that are in the grooming process are introduced to new people frequently. The aim here is to keep the young person away from advice or rapport. Young people that are initiated into county lines or the child sex trade are put to work with people they don't even know!

Money & Material Items

The easiest way to know if your child or young person is buying or receiving items is to do random searches! It blows me away the amount of parents that have no knowledge of what they have in their own houses. Some parents only become aware when there is an arrest or search carried out. Money also plays in major part in understanding where your child is at. It's simple, if you didn't give them that money, then who the hell did! QUICK MATHS!!!! Don't walk around with your head in the sand wondering where the excess money is coming from, Act on it and ask the question, sooner than later. If you're child comes home and has a new item of clothing or money, challenge them and get an answer fast! Do not be afraid to confront this and most certainly do not accept any contribution of gift that can be part of an illegal activity

Changes in routines

Look out for significant changes in routine, this can be the time it takes to arrive home from school or the frequency of leaving and returning home for short periods of time. This often spells out that there is something happening in the background. Often young people will develop a pattern of staying out for many hours without an excuse or evidence of where they have been, they will often lie when challenged about their activities outside of the home. If your child is being used during the day when they are normally at school, provision or college, there will be a lot of evidence of this. Many young people are targeted here and find it difficult to avoid seeing a potential groomer. Children that are targeted and groomed in these situations are often referred to as new skins, as they are fresh and will have little knowledge of the intent. They will most certainly not of had any complications with the police before.

Criminal Record THE IMPACT

Having a criminal record can be daunting, but not the end of the world. understanding the limitations of having a criminal record is more important as so many young people lack knowledge or advice about how their criminal activities can impact on their lives. Fair enough you can still get a job , even though it may be more difficult to obtain, You still have most of your rights as a citizen, you may even go onto be successful in the career you choose. The purpose here is to inform you of the limitations that naturally occur once you are have a criminal record.

The fact is serving time in prison or having a criminal record will undoubtably have a massive impact on the way you live your life. We could even go as far as saying most people that serve a sentence or have a non custodial criminal record, go on to be upstanding members of their communities. But the fact is that’s just is not the case! A criminal record is something that is not looked lightly, many employers will ask for a full disclosure before even looking at an interview. This means that you will have to tell them about all of your convictions, even the ones that you think are spent! The Criminal justice system is very complex and has many different aspects to it, most notably the sentencing handed out for specific crimes. There is a lot of speculation by young people that spending time in prison does not affect the rest of their lives.

Convicted of a crime?

Even if you were under 18 at the time the consequences of a conviction can still impact your life. If you are convicted of a crime, you will have a period of time to undergo rehabilitation. The more serious the crime, the longer the period of rehabilitation. Once the period of rehabilitation is up then your conviction will be ‘spent’, although prison sentences of more than 30 months mean that the conviction will never be ‘spent’. Convictions that are ‘unspent’ mean that there hasn’t been enough time since the original offence without you re-offending, which means that the conviction has to be declared. What about higher level disclosure checks? When it comes to higher level disclosures the rules are more strict. Even if your conviction is spent, it may still have to be disclosed to an employer if it is on the “always disclose” or “disclose subject to rules” list. Also, it may also still have to be disclosed to an employer if it has been less than 7 years and 6 months since you were convicted - this applies to people who were convicted when they were under 18.

Joint Enterprise

Joint enterprise is a common law doctrine where an individual can be jointly convicted of the crime of another, if the court decides they foresaw that the other party was likely to commit that crime

Wrong turn' in how joint enterprise is applied

If the murder involved a knife, the minimum sentence is 25 years in prison, and 30 if it involved a firearm. Often people were sentenced to decades in prison for murder despite the fact they did not kill nor intend anyone else to kill the victim.

Case Study: How it impacts you

Alistair, 22, a student was thrown off his university training course because of theft committed when he had just turned 17. Five years ago when he was working in a shop, he stole £400 at the request of a more senior member of staff who had helped him. He admitted theft and a related fraud charge concerning falsifying accounts when he appeared in court. He was given a fine. His mistake was totally out of character and this is the only time he has been in trouble with the law. Alistair has always declared the offence on application forms when asked to do so. After deciding on a career change to a more ‘caring’ profession, he successfully applied for a place on a threeyear nursing course at university. Alistair was aware that a PVG check would be carried out for all applicants and declared his conviction when he received the appropriate form before starting in March this year. But after the university asked for a full written account of his offence, Alistair was told his place had been ‘withdrawn’. The information about Alistair’s criminal record was disclosed on the PVG scheme certificate as the conviction is unspent. It becomes spent if it is 7.5 years old and the offender was aged under 18 years old at the date of conviction. (For those over 18 it becomes spent after 15 years). This means that Alistair will have to declare his conviction until he is ages 24.5 years. The conviction will be included on any higher level disclosure until he is ages 24.5 years old.

How could having a criminal record impact your future?

A charge on your criminal record — even without a conviction — can hamper your ability to find a good job and can reduce your earning potential. Prospective employers have a legal right in most cases to investigate your criminal record via a background check, and they may not hire you based on what they find.

What are the disadvantages of having a criminal record?

Ten disadvantages of having a criminal record: Limited Employment Opportunities May limit your travel Loss of the right to vote Difficulty in obtaining the loan Denial of admission in a college or university It will be difficult to find an apartment on rent Deteriorating relationships and social life.

Does a court fine mean a criminal record?

Some cautions, fines, offences and spent convictions won't appear. But convictions for certain crimes stay unspent and will always appear on your record.

For more information please visit

Responding to concerns about county lines exploitation

If you’re worried that a child or young person might be or is at risk of being exploited by a county lines gang, you must share your concerns.


If you think a child is in immediate danger, contact the police on 999. If you’re worried about a child but they are not in immediate danger, you should share your concerns.

Contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000 or by emailing help@nspcc.org.uk.

If you require advice or general information please get in touch

Youth Unity work in strict confidence to offer impartial advice and signpost 

Shopping Basket