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Offensive Weapons Bill

Monday 22 October 2018

The Offensive Weapons Bill is currently making its way through Parliament, which could affect antiques dealers, traders and auctioneers. If passed it's expected that under Section 17, businesses will no longer be able to post knives out to residential addresses.

An overview of what the legislation would mean for you is given below, but the Bill still has to pass several stages in the House of Commons and the House of Lords. During these stages MPs and Lords will debate the Bill in its current form and table amendments if they think that something needs changing or the legislation isn't clear. If you are concerned about what the Bill will mean for you, we'd recommend you contact your MP so that they can try and influence the direction of the debates. 

If the Bill is passed it will be an offence under Section 17 for a seller to deliver or arrange to deliver a bladed product to a residential premises or a locker (e.g. lockable container of any kind, such as those used by Amazon). Under the legislation the definition of a bladed product is given as being "an article which is or has a blade, and is capable of causing a serious injury to a person which involves cutting that person’s skin".

In sections 17 and 18 (see below) so far as they apply to England and Wales, and Scotland, a “bladed product” does not include a flick knife or a gravity knife, as separate offences and penalties already exist and are laid out in Section 1 of the Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959.  

The definition of the term "bladed product" does not include (b) an order under section 141(2) of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, or (c) an order made by the Secretary of State, or in Scotland's case the Scottish Ministers under section 141A(3)(c) of the Criminal Justice Act 1988.  

Apply to Northern Ireland, “bladed product” does not include an article described in— (a) Article 53 of the Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 (SI 1996/3160 (NI 24)), or (c) an order under Article 54 of the Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 1996.

Penalties
If you were to be found guilty of an offence, you'd be liable on summary conviction in England and Wales, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks, to a fine, or to both. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, you could be imprisoned for a term not exceeding six months, or given a fine which would not exceed level 5 on the standard scale, or you could be given both.

Defences (Section 18 of the Bill)
As the Bill currently stands, it would be a defence for a person charged with an offence under section 17 to prove that:

  • the bladed product was adapted for the buyer before its delivery in accordance with specifications provided by the buyer, and (b) the adaptations were made to enable or facilitate the use of the product by the buyer or its use for a particular purpose.
  • they reasonably believed that the buyer bought the bladed product for use for relevant sporting purposes (to participate in a competitive sport involving combat between individuals, and (b) use of the product is an integral part of that sport) or for the purposes of historical re-enactment. 

As to what exactly 'reasonably believed' will mean in practice remains to be seen - for example - would it require sellers to see proof from the buyer that they belong to a competitive sporting association, or their membership number?  

It's also written into the Bill that the "appropriate national authority" may by regulations provide for other defences to the offence under section 17. In relation to England and Wales, this would be the Secretary of State, (b) in relation to Scotland, the Scottish Ministers, and (c) in relation to Northern Ireland, the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland. It remains to be seen if any of the national authorities will decide to enshrine additional defences using the powers granted to them. 

What affect would the proposed legislation have on your business? Will it mean an end to including weapons in online auctions, or will your terms of business have to change to include - "must be collected from the premises" etc. Let us know what you think by emailing: guyparker@propertymark.co.uk

We will keep you updated on the progress of the Bill, including and amendments that are likely to affect you.