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Adapting a Multi tool to make it legal?


earthman1546620180
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Hi everybody, my first post here, hope someone can give the correct answers for sure?

I have a Victorinox Swisstool multi tool, all the attachments lock out including the two small blades (under 3") which of course make it illegal to carry as an everyday tool without a good reason.

1. If I were to permanently remove/grind away the part on the blades that make them lock, would the tool then be classed as 'non locking' so would be legal to carry in public without reason?

2. What about the locking wood & metal saws plus the chisel attachment, are they seen as illegal due to the fact that they lock in place? After all, they could do some serious harm if used as a weapon.

3. At present if a person is stopped & searched & a locking blade on such a tool is found, does that mean a caution/arrest is 100% likely? No possibility of just a warning/confiscation of tool even if the person is just going about their daily business and not 'up to no good'?

Just for the record, I would like to say that in all my 40 years I've never been 'known' or in trouble with the police, I'm no youth/yob, don't hang out in pubs/clubs or any where dodgy if I can help it.

I feel it's a shame that it's mainly down to kids/yobs stabbing each other that the knife laws have become this way, it makes us law abiding citizens who may use a multi tool in daily life feel like a right criminal. :sad:

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3. At present if a person is stopped & searched & a locking blade on such a tool is found, does that mean a caution/arrest is 100% likely? No possibility of just a warning/confiscation of tool even if the person is just going about their daily business and not 'up to no good'?

I feel it's a shame that it's mainly down to kids/yobs stabbing each other that the knife laws have become this way, it makes us law abiding citizens who may use a multi tool in daily life feel like a right criminal. :sad:

It's written into the legislation that if you have a reasonable excuse or lawful authority for possessing a blade or sharply pointed article in public, then no offence is committed. Possession of an article in use for work (chef's having their knives with them as they travel to work, carpet fitters with stanley knives , etc.) is lawful. You have nothing to worry about as long as you can prove that you need a blade in order to do your job, and never have had.

Therefore there's no need to adapt your multitool to make it legal.

Just make sure you only have it on you when it's needed and not out of habit, and you won't fall foul of the law.

Edited by Molloy
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It's written into the legislation that if you have a reasonable excuse or lawful authority for possessing a blade or sharply pointed article in public, then no offence is committed. Possession of an article in use for work (chef's having their knives with them as they travel to work, carpet fitters with stanley knives , etc.) is lawful. You have nothing to worry about as long as you can prove that you need a blade in order to do your job, and never have had.

Therefore there's no need to adapt your multitool to make it legal.

Just make sure you only have it on you when it's needed and not out of habit, and you won't fall foul of the law.

Many thanks for your reply, I realise that if you have a reasonable/work excuse then there's no need to alter the tool, I'm thinking about when you haven't really got an excuse.

As I see it a multi tool is & can be a life saver, something that you rarely leave home with, just like your wallet, after all they are marketed as an emergency/repair tool, how can you predict when you do/don't need to use it. :rolleyes:

Edited by earthman
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Many thanks for your reply, I realise that if you have a reasonable/work excuse then there's no need to alter the tool, I'm thinking about when you haven't really got an excuse.

As I see it a multi tool is & can be a life saver, something that you rarely leave home with, just like your wallet, after all they are marketed as an emergency/repair tool, how can you predict when you do/don't need to use it. :rolleyes:

In which case, the only thing I'd say is keep it out of a place where itll be in easy reach. I see too many cars that have a wrench or a screwdriver tucked away in the drivers door pocket. That'll make it easier to justify, although you would be committing the offence.

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So where do we stand with a multi-tool pen knife that doesn't have lockable blades. Can I carry one around just in case I need any of the tools?

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So where do we stand with a multi-tool pen knife that doesn't have lockable blades. Can I carry one around just in case I need any of the tools?

Yes, as long as it's blades are less than three inches, which most are.

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When purchasing a multi-tool for myself last year, I revisited the legislation that made these multi tools illegal to carry unless you have good reason.

Please don’t read on unless you are interested in how this legislation (in my interpretation, not being a lawyer) has developed

It would seem on the face of it that case law at court and statutory interpretation hasn’t been helpful for those like us who would wish to carry such items at all times.

The offence of carrying a bladed instrument was created in statute within the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (Sec139(1)). As is normal there was significant parliamentary debate prior to the creation of the Act. Sec139 was designed to take over from earlier law which required the prosecution to prove that the knife carrier intended to harm, because this was simply not strong enough to prevent criminal possession of these knives. The section was drafted to place the onus on the person carrying to establish good reason to have the item with him.

Obviously at that basic level without any specific exceptions, anyone carrying a small pocket knife would have had to show the reason for possession. Accordingly several amendments were tabled one after the other to try to cater for this.

Amendment One wanted Section 139 to be written thus;-

Any person who has with him in a public place without good reason or lawful authority any article which has a blade or is sharply pointed (except a pocketknife with no blade which is longer than three inches or which locks when open) shall be guilty of an offence.

(amendment in bold)

This would in itself have prevented the carry of locking multi-tools.

Subsequent amendments sought to try to make provision for the variety of ‘tools’ deemed to be useful.

Ultimately when the Bill came to the standing committee, it was decided that the accepted text should include;-

(2)Subject to subsection (3) below, this section applies to any article which has a blade or is sharply pointed except a folding pocket-knife.

(3) This section applies to a folding pocket-knife if the cutting edge of its blade exceeds three inches."

To explain why “folding pocket knife†was the desired text, and the intent conveyed by parliament for that text, John Patten Minister of State at the Home Office explained the Govt thinking. He said

“In our discussions with the manufacturers with whom we have consulted widely in the interests of industry and employment in Sheffield, it emerged that we could catch those vicious sliding knives, while at the same time exempting ordinary pocket knives that lock into the open position, which is what the amendment seeks to do. Folding, locking pocket knives, which I am advised that many people carry because they are safer to use than the non-locking variety, will be excepted from the general offence, which is right, but the exception will apply only to folding pocket knives with a sharpened blade of 3 in or less. ..... We wish to keep within the law those people who carry ordinary pocket knives. When an officer finds a person in possession of a pocket knife in a public place he has only to check the length of the blade and ensure that the knife folds. If the knife does not fulfil those criteria, the possessor will have to show a good reason for having the knife with him."

So from that passage it is absolutely clear that the government intention was to allow the unquestioned possession of locking folding pocket knives with blades less than 3 inches.

Unfortunately the government did not see that the introduction (in the latest amendment) of the word ‘folding’ would leave the text open to interpretation.

When a chap called Harris was convicted, having been in possession of a lock knife (being a knife with a button required to be pressed to release the folding blade) he appealed in 1993 against the conviction. The conviction was held. McCowanLJ concluded

"To be a folding pocket-knife the knife has to be readily and indeed immediately foldable at all times, simply by the folding process. A knife of the type with which these appeals are concerned is not in this category because, in the first place, there is a stage, namely, when it has been opened, when it is not immediately foldable simply by the folding process and, secondly, it requires that further process, namely, the pressing of the button."

This was the court’s interpretation of the text, and despite the fact that it countered the original intent of parliament when it drafted the bill, nevertheless it became law.

This interpretation was later called into question when a chap called Desmond Deegan was caught and prosecuted with (what I believe was) a locking multi-tool. The court found him guilty based on the Harris case law.

Deegan appealed, trying to persuade the court that they should consider the purpose and intent of the legislation, rather than the earlier case law, stating that under certain conditions (the fulfilling of conditions in the case of Pepper v Hart) the court should be required to consider the Ministerial statements made whilst the Bill was being debated in Parliament.

The court was sympathetic to Deegan’s case although they decided that the conditions to allow the force of the parliamentary debate to be considered had not been met, and they were therefore compelled to follow the Harris judgement.

LJ Waller in his summing up said

"Obviously there is force in the view that Parliament really should not have brought what used to be called pen knives which have devices for locking the blades for reasons of safety, within the penal provisions of the Statute. A carrier of such should, it can be said, not have been required by Parliament to provide a "good reason" for having the article with him. However, it seems to us that "folding" in its ordinary meaning, means "foldable" at all times without the intervention of some further process, namely the pressing of a button or release of a catch, and that if any form of "lock knives" are to be brought outside the legislation, that will need clearer definition..."

"Accordingly we would dismiss the appeal.

Application for leave to appeal to the House of Lords refused, but point of general public importance certified as follows:

'That the article 'a folding pocket knife' as mentioned in section 139(2) Criminal Justice Act 1988 as being an exemption subject to subsection (3) to the offence made by section 139(1) means a knife that has a blade that folds, whether or not it (the blade) is capable of being opened and locked into an open position and equally capable of being folded once the mechanism had been operated to unlock the blade."

So that final judgement, despite maintaining the offence of possession of a locking folding pocketknife, seemed to suggest that the unquestioned possession of such a knife should not be an offence.

LJ Waller indeed made reference to the fact that it’s possibly simply the pressure of parliamentary time that has caused them not to clarify this matter by amendment of the legislation, or it's perhaps as likely that law abiding people have accepted this restriction to the reasonable possession of such knives for the overall good and the ease of prosecution of appropriate offenders.

In reality a sensible Joe who has no convictions and is carrying a multitool is unlikely to even be considered to be reported for prosecution by the police or CPS unless there is some albeit remote suggestion that person may have it for personal protection or causing injury or damage.

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In reality a sensible Joe who has no convictions and is carrying a multitool is unlikely to even be considered to be reported for prosecution by the police or CPS unless there is some albeit remote suggestion that person may have it for personal protection or causing injury or damage.

Many thanks for your reply, just wondering if you are in the police force & if most officers would agree with the above?

Which multi tool did you buy in the end and do you still worry about having it with you in public?

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Many thanks for your reply, just wondering if you are in the police force & if most officers would agree with the above?

Yep, been in 17 years. Don't forget that my opinion is no defence, but it's my strong belief that you would get no more than a warning.

Which multi tool did you buy in the end and do you still worry about having it with you in public?

I bought a Leatherman Charge TTi - like this one!

chargetti.jpg

I carry mine all the time, while at work, and I've used it a lot. I wouldn't carry it on me any other time. I use a Swiss Army knife at other times unless I have a specific need for the Leatherman. I'd carry the Leatherman in the car if I was away for a trip. It's very good, but I actually prefer my Swiss Army knife, its more ergonomic.

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Don't forget that my opinion is no defence, but it's my strong belief that you would get no more than a warning.

I dare say that every officer may see the same situation differently but if you had to guess a percentage of say the officers who you work with, how many would definitely caution or arrest a person who has such a multi tool with locking attachments on their person?

The situation is: a well mannered mature person, not known to the police, not actually done anything wrong (apart from having the tool) who may just have been stopped due to say a blown tail light.

That reminds me, 'caution/arrest' do they amount to the same thing in the end? Sorry, but never (thankfully) had any experience of what's involved.

I've read a post on another forum (don't know if it's correct) that if you were found to have a knife and the officer was about to caution you that it's best to refuse the caution because you would be admitting that you have the knife has a weapon even if that's the furthest thing from the truth.

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Fantastic post on the subject from SoS.

It's a real hot-potato for us at my place for work at the moment - and you may have seen a post from me recently quoting an example very much like that raised by the OP. What really throws a fly in the ointment is the unrelenting push for sanction detections.

I work at an airport - an environment which is as a whole over-policed. There is a legal requirement for a minumum police presence for the obvious counter-terrorism reasons - but terrorist attacks on airports are still thankfully not a daily occurance. That means the large UK airports have a sinificant number of police officers who generally don't have a great deal to do on a daily basis. Airports are, after all, relatively crime-free environments. As a division we record less than 4 crimes a day with over 40 officers on duty each day. Bosses don't like the idea that their staff don't have much to do, so they will put artificial pressure on you to produce something (anything!) to justify your existence. For us it's sanction detections, just like everybody else. The problem though is that there really isn't enough crime going on at the airport to get the number of detections that our division is expected to contribute to the force total. The result then is that any crime of any nature that can be detected is expected to be detected.

So, we get a middle-aged business man coming through airport security and he has one of these multi-tools in his bag. It can't be taken on the plane for obvious reasons but at one time all that would happen is that security would get you to check your hand luggage into the hold or, if you couldn't be bothered to do that, just take the item from you. This is still done with most offending items - but not lock-knives. No, because our bosses have told them to report all such instances to us so that we can go along and detect a crime. It's disgraceful.

I now find myself going to such instances and having to write up logs with a pile of lies simply to avoid having to arrest a perectly decent individual who should never have come to police attention in the first place. It is possible in limited circumstances to get the matters written off with an Inspector's authority but they rarely give it. It's a bit of a campaign of mine at the moment to get this policy discarded and now if an Inspector insists we take action I insist they come down and face the 55 year old company director in a suit and explain to them personally why it is necessary that they be prosecuted . It's interesting how often they change their mind when faced with the prospect of doing their own dirty work in meeting their targets rather than having the protection of making a decision from the safety of their office.

It's always struck me as a ridiculous piece of legislation. It makes no sense at all why a knife should be of greater concern just because it has a blade that locks - particularly when almost any kind of folding knife you can buy these days has a locking blade for safety. It's very interesting to see the history behind the making of the legislation and to see that it was never the intention of the government of the day that people should be prosecuted for carrying these items. I will find that very useful in my efforts. Thanks very much for taking the time to post it. It just might help me re-intruduce some common sense.

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I've read a post on another forum (don't know if it's correct) that if you were found to have a knife and the officer was about to caution you that it's best to refuse the caution because you would be admitting that you have the knife has a weapon even if that's the furthest thing from the truth.

Accepting a caution is an admission of guilt and will come back to haunt you for many years to come. I have had job application forms where it has asked me to declare juvenile cautions despite being in my 30's. It can stop you from getting any job in security or working with children. Unfortunately all that will be recorded on the record is that you had an offensive weapon, or bladed article, not that you had a multi-tool.

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I've read a post on another forum (don't know if it's correct) that if you were found to have a knife and the officer was about to caution you that it's best to refuse the caution because you would be admitting that you have the knife has a weapon even if that's the furthest thing from the truth.

The caution you would get on the street is different to the one you get that stays on record. On the street the caution is the officer informing you of your rights because of the offence whereas the other caution in custody is where you are admitting guilt.

If its in the boot of your car then I can't see a problem with it, however if its on your person without reason then you're asking for problems.

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I work as a private hire driver/controller and am the one that sorts out the drivers radios. I have a leatherman with the screw driver bits and I carry it in it's case on my belt. It is a very handy piece of kit and I use it all the time.

I was in a late night cafe the other day getting a cuppa and 2 coppers walked in, one of them asked what I had on my belt and I showed him, we then had a 10 minute conversation about multitools and which was the best one.

As with alot of things, it's down to the situation and the person.

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