Skip to main content
Offensive Weapons Act

Offensive Weapons Act

The Offensive Weapons Act 2019 introduced tough new measures to strengthen law enforcement’s response to violent crime.

 The act makes it illegal to possess dangerous weapons in private, including knuckledusters, zombie knives and death star knives, and you will soon have to verify you are over 18 to buy bladed items from the internet. 

What items can't be possessed?

The legislation amended section 141 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 to make it a criminal offence to possess in private any weapon set out in the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (Offensive Weapons) Order. Since 1988 it has been an offence to manufacture, sell, hire, offer to sell or hire, possess for the purposes of sale or hire, import, lend or give weapons to which that section applies, and this section makes unlawful the simple possession of these.

In England and Wales, and in relation to this legislation, a private place is a place other than:
• a public place
• school premises
• further education premises, or
• a prison
 prohibited articlesHow does it affect online purchases?

  • You need to verify you are 18 or over. This may include the use of identity documents, credit checks or age verification systems.
  • You CANNOT have bladed items delived to a locker or other automated pick up point.
  • Items are clearly labelled as bladed articles, and those delivering the items may ask you for proof of age.

bladed article delivery

Exceptions under the Act

The defences that already exist under section 141 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 also apply to their simple possession. This includes that the weapon in question is:

            of historical importance

            to be used for historical re-enactments

            to be used for sporting activities

            for use in film and theatre

            possessed on behalf of a museum or gallery, or lent or hired by a museum or gallery for cultural, artistic or  educational purposes

            possessed for religious reasons

Antique weapons, over 100 years old, are exempted from section 141 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988[footnote 18]. This exemption now also applies to the offence of possessing such antique weapons.

There is also an exemption for swords with curved blades of 50cm or longer made before 1954 or those made at any time by traditional methods by hand.

Where can I find out more?

Read the Offensive Weapons Act Legislation in full
This is the original version (as it was originally enacted in Parliament).

Read the statutory guidance at the Home Office website
The statutory guidance sets out how the legislation should be implemented and applied, the obligations imposed under the act, and what factors should be taken into account when making decisions on how to proceed with individual cases of the possession, sale and delivery of knives, corrosives and offensive weapons, and the use of these to threaten others.

Find your local Police service and contact details
The single Police online home will enable you to contact your local police service and contact them in regards to any queries or concerns you have in regards to the offensive weapons act.

Additional Resources

Are you involved in a school, youth club or community project that would benefit from A4 posters surrounding this? Contact the MPS Business Crime Hub for solutions around community engagement and for printed versions of our A4 poster covering the key facts of the new legislation. You can also download and print a copy of this below.


OWA Public Poster

Retailers & Couriers

The National Business Crime Centre is committed to supporting retailers and manufacturers who work within the legislation, and this page will be updated with further guidance to help ensure your organisations that sell or deliver knives will be informed on how to best follow the law closer to this part of the legislation being commenced. If you have any queries prior to this, contact the Metropolitan Police Business Crime Hub who can work with you to ensure your organisation is compliant.