Knives, swords and machetes: What's banned under current UK law

By Alex Ross | Crime | Published:

Ten types of knives are banned by the Government – but retailers have found ways to easily circumvent the legislation.

All these blades can be legally sold in the United Kingdom

The sale of ‘zombie’ knives was made illegal two years ago following a campaign by the Express & Star and the West Midlands PCC David Jamieson.

Under current UK law such blades must have a cutting edge as well as images or words suggesting they are used for violence.

But remove the imagery and words and the knives are legal to sell.

It is no longer legal to sell 'zombie' knives

It is illegal to carry a knife in public ‘without good reason, unless it has a folding blade with a cutting edge 3 inches long or less’.

Examples of ‘good reasons’ given by the Government include taking one for use at work, taking one to a gallery to be exhibited, taking it to be displayed in art including theatre and taking it for a demonstration on how to use it.

A spokesman said: “A court will decide if you’ve got a good reason to carry a knife or a weapon if you’re charged with carrying it illegally.”


The possession of ‘zombie’ knives will shortly be outlawed as part of the Home Office’s Serious Violence Strategy.

The banned list

It is illegal to bring into the UK, sell, hire, lend or give anyone the following:

  • Butterfly knives (also known as ‘balisongs’) - a blade hidden inside a handle that splits in the middle
  • Disguised knives - a blade or sharp point hidden inside what looks like everyday objects such as a buckle, phone, brush or lipstick
  • Flick knives (also known as ‘switchblades’ or ‘automatic knives’) - a blade hidden inside a handle which shoots out when a button is pressed
  • Stealth knives - a knife or spike not made from metal (except when used at home, for food or a toy)
  • Zombie knives - a knife with a cutting edge, a serrated edge and images or words suggesting it is used for violence
  • Swords, including samurai swords - a curved blade over 50cm (with some exceptions, such as antiques and swords made to traditional methods before 1954)
  • Sword-sticks - a hollow walking stick or cane containing a blade
  • Push daggers
  • Kyoketsu-shoge - a hook-knife attached to a rope, cord or wire
Alex Ross

By Alex Ross
Investigations Editor - @alexross_star

Investigations Editor at the Express & Star. Everyone has a story - tell me yours.


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