Thursday, 3 June 2010

Great Repeal Bill wish list 2: The Knife Ban

The Criminal Justice Act 1988 introduced, at Section 139, the new offence of having an article with a blade or point in public place. It makes interesting reading, but the gist of it is that any person who has an article with a blade or sharp point (other than a folding pocket knife with a blade less than 3 inches long) in a public place is guilty of an offence - unless a) the person is able to prove that a) he had good reason or lawful authority for having the article with him in a public place or b) he had the article with him for use at work or c) he had it with him for religious reasons or d) he had it with him as part of a national costume - any national costume would do.

It is very difficult not to laugh. This one is utterly, utterly ridiculous, and would have puzzled most of our ancestors thoroughly. I find it very odd to think that if I were to pick up one of Mrs. Bird’s bread knives in the kitchen, walk out the door, up the path, and out the garden gate, and on to Windsor Gardens, without a good reason, I would become guilty of a criminal offence. However, thanks to the wisdom of our politicians, that is exactly what would happen.

Actually, I don’t tend to do this, so I don’t think that this one affects me personally. But then I imagine that Rodney Knowles and Brian Seaton thought that it didn’t affect them, either. And even if one is not charged, one could well end up (like Dale McAlpine) spending a few hours in the cells if a police constable doesn’t think that your reason for carrying a knife is good enough.

Now I know that some people are going to say “Aaaargh! We’ll all be murdered in our beds if the knife ban is repealed!” I must confess to grave scepticism. I certainly don’t remember feeling any safer in on the streets in 1989 than I was in 1987. And Austria, where the knife laws are considerably less restrictive than those of the UK, is not known for particularly dangerous streets. (In fact, Vienna is reputed to have a pretty good quality of life.) I know of no evidence to suggest that the 1988 knife ban has done anything to reduce violent crime in Britain. (See discussion here and here.)

I’ll say it again: Every adult should be free to use their legitimately acquired property in whatever manner they choose, so long as in doing so, they do not harm or infringe upon the freedom of others. Carrying a knife hurts no one. So it should not be a criminal offence. And banning the carrying of knives does not stop malicious people carrying knives. So what is the point?

In the grand scale of things, repealing Section 139 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 is not that important. But it would be a sign that the government is moving away from knee-jerk responses to problems and from the obsessive desire that politicians seem to have for banning things.

(Yes, I know, I know. “If retaining this legislation saves the life of just one young person in Britain . . . .” Sigh.)


Delta Pavonis said...

The knife ban became absurd when the druid who calls himself Arthur Pendragon and lives in a caravan near Stonehenge has to carry a letter from the police with him to carry his ceremonial sword 'Excalibur'. He has pledged "never to draw the sword Excalibur in anger", which does rather beg the question when he would draw his sword! Because pagans are not recognised as a religion by the state, they are not accorded the same rights as Sikhs - who carry daggers that, according to Sikh doctrine, can be used in self-defence. It's all a bit silly really, isn't it?

Young Mr. Brown said...

Hello, Delta Pavonis, and thank you for that.

I had not previously heard of Mr. Pendragon, but he seems like a very interesting gentleman. I note that he was a candidate for Salisbury at the recent General Election, and that one of the causes that he campaigns on is freedom of the individual.

Delta Pavonis said...

I met him many years ago at a film premier. Although he believes he is the reincarnation of King Arthur, he's basically a down-to-earth guy who likes to take on authority on the basis of his sense of justice, whether it's opposing the Newbury Bypass or demanding Druid access to Stonehenge during solstice. Druids tend to be fairly independent-minded, rebellious and anti-authoritarian, and sometimes they are not very politically coherent!

indigomyth said...

//does rather beg the question when he would draw his sword!//

Spreading cheese on crackers, of course!

indigomyth said...

or marmalade on sandwiches, if you prefer YMB

Young Mr. Brown said...


patently said...

d) he had it with him as part of a national costume - any national costume would do.

It is time to establish a National Dress for the Libertarian movement? What might it consist of (apart from a huge great knife, of course)?

Delta Pavonis said...

You'd be more likely to be arrested for being naked in public than having a knife that is easy to conceal. Hence, a naked hiker will be hauled into the cell, even if he or she had no intention of using their body as a weapon.

Young Mr. Brown said...

Hello, Mr. P!

"It is time to establish a National Dress for the Libertarian movement? What might it consist of (apart from a huge great knife, of course)?"

That would be for filleting the extensive lies of the political classes, of course.

Other libertarians would doubtless suggest a Guy Fawkes mask.

I want to insist on a hat - one large enough to keep a marmalade sandwich under.