What must the prosecution prove in relation to possession of an offensive weapon?
The prosecution are required to prove three aspects:
- You were in possession of
- An offensive weapon
- In a public place
What does possession mean?
You must have actual knowledge that you have the weapon on or with you. If you did not know that the weapon was, for example, in your bag or car, then the weapon will not be classed as being in your possession. However, if you have simply forgotten it was there, this won’t automatically be accepted as a defence and it will be a matter for the court to decide.
What is an offensive weapon?
An offensive weapon is defined as “any article made or adapted for use to cause injury to the person, or intended by the person having it with him for such use”.
There are 3 types of offensive weapons:
TYPE 1: Weapon that is made for causing injury to the person - e.g. machete, sword, knuckle duster. These weapons do not have an innocent purpose.
TYPE 2: Weapon not made for the purpose of causing injury, but adapted for it - e.g. a pencil with a razor blade attached to it, a nail-headed bat, or a deliberately broken glass bottle.
TYPE 3: Weapon that is not offensive in itself, and has not been adapted, but the person intended to use it to cause injury to someone- e.g. large torch or baseball bat.
There is no complete list of what will be classed an offensive weapon; whether an article is classed as an offensive weapon will be decided by the jury or magistrates.
What are the most common types of offensive weapons?
Knives - including disguised knives and knife blades
Swords - including samurai swords and sword sticks
Hammers and tools
Cricket bats, baseball bats and other similar blunt objects
Acid and corrosive substances
What is a public place?
A public place includes any road, premises or places that the public at the time in question have access to. This will include a car, unless it is parked on private property at the time.
Do you need to have intention to cause harm in order to be found guilty of possession of an offensive weapon?
For the 1st and 2nd type of offensive weapons, it does not need to be proven by the prosecution that you had the weapon with you for the purpose of inflicting injury. The fact the weapon is offensive in itself means that a person accused of this offence will need to prove they have a good reason for carrying it. For the 3rd type, the prosecution has to prove that you possessed the weapon with the intention to cause injury. The surrounding circumstances will be taken into account by the jury.
What is the sentence for possession of a bladed article or offensive weapon?
If you are found guilty of being in possession of a bladed article or offensive weapon, you are at risk of a penalty ranging from a fine, up to 6 months imprisonment if sentenced in the magistrates’ court or up to a maximum of 4 years if sentenced in the crown court.
The sentence given will depend on the amount of harm you caused, or might have caused, as well as how responsible the court decide you to be for any harm, or potential harm caused.
What aggregating factors might increase my sentence for possession of a bladed article or offensive weapon?
- You attempted to conceal your identity during the offence
- You have previous convictions for a related offence
- You attempted to hide or dispose of relevant evidence e.g. the offensive weapon.
- The offence was motivated by hostility towards people who possess certain characteristics e.g. targeted people due to their gender, religion, race or sexual orientation.
- The offence caused serious distress to others
- The offence was committed at a school, somewhere where a vulnerable person might be present, or in a prison.
- The weapon in question is considered highly dangerous.
Our focus as solicitors is to minimise the effect any aggravating factors may have in your case. We will ensure all relevant mitigating factors are clearly highlighted to the court in order to secure the lowest possible sentence available in the sentencing range.
What are the available defences?
Possible defences to these offences are:
- Lawful authority, or
- Reasonable excuse,
for being in possession of the offensive weapon.
Lawful authority will be available to those who carry offensive weapons as a matter of duty, such as the police and soldiers whilst they are at work and on duty.
For reasonable excuse to be accepted as a valid defence, there must a reasonable explanation for having the offensive weapon e.g. a builder carrying his tools and hammer to and from a job site, a police fancy dress costume where the truncheon is part of the outfit, or you have just disarmed someone else.
Is self-defence a defence for carrying an offensive weapon?
Simply carrying an offensive weapon ‘just in case’ you needed to use it, or as a general precaution will not be accepted by the court as a reasonable excuse. The only time self-defence may amount to a reasonable excuse would be if you felt you were about to be the victim of an imminent attack so you were in possession of the weapon to protect yourself from the specific danger.
What criminal offences relate to offensive weapon charges?
Specific charges can include:
- Possession of an offensive weapon in a public place
- Possession of an article with blade/point in a public place
- Possession of an offensive weapon on school premises
- Possession of an article with blade/point on school premises
- Unauthorised possession in prison of a knife or offensive weapon
Stephensons have experience in dealing with all of the above offences, therefore we are very familiar with the law and process surrounding offences of this kind.
What should I do if I’m accused of, or charged with possession of an offensive weapon?
You are advised to seek expert legal advice as soon as possible. At Stephensons, our team will assist and advise you every step of the way. If you seek legal advice early enough, our solicitors may be able to resolve the case without the need for you to attend court e.g. caution. If you are being investigated for one of these offences please do not hesitate to contact a member of the team for confidential advice on 0161 696 6188 or complete an online enquiry form.