Grandfather falls foul of knife law
Colin Read with a knife similar to the one which was confiscated
24 July 2008 06:41
A Norfolk grandfather has become one of the most unlikely targets of the clampdown on street stabbings - after being arrested for carrying a pocket knife in public.
Builder Colin Read was held for police questioning, had his fingerprints, DNA and mug-shot taken and was threatened with prosecution for carrying the knife which has been the tool of his trade for more than a decade. He believes he was the unwitting victim of a tightening of laws, following a series of tragedies across the country.
The 64-year-old only realised that the blade, which measures less than three inches, was a banned weapon after visiting Norwich Magistrates' Court over a speeding matter - the first time in his life he has been in trouble. He voluntarily handed the knife to security guards only to be told they had no option but to call the police.
Mr Read, from Hevingham, said: I've never been in trouble or put a foot wrong with the law in my entire life until now. Now I've had to live with the stress of a potential jail sentence hanging over my head.
Home Office guidelines state that it is an offence to carry a knife in public without good reason - for example a chef carrying knives to work. The maximum penalty is four years in prison and a fine of £5,000.
Knives where the blade folds into the handle, like a Swiss army knife, are not illegal, as long as the blade is shorter than three inches. This is because it would be difficult to use them to cause a serious injury. But those with a lockable blade - like Mr Read's - or Stanley and kitchen knives are banned.
Mr Read has now been released with a caution but must still pay a costly legal bill and face a stain on his record. He spoke out last night to warn hundreds of people who legitimately carry knives - like farmers, fishermen, tradesmen and DIY enthusiasts - that they risk committing an offence every time they step out on the street.
The case comes amid mounting calls for increased restrictions on knives. Gordon Brown acknowledged that too many people feel unsafe in their own homes as public concern about knife crime spirals; his comments followed a number of high profile deaths in street attacks.
The Prime Minister said: We need to make it absolutely clear to everyone, but especially young people, that in our country there are boundaries of acceptable behaviour, that it is completely unacceptable to carry a knife.
Mr Read said he used the knife for jobs like cutting packaging on building materials and testing wood while giving quotes.
I just walked into the court with it in my pocket as I was on my way to another job, he said. I was not threat to anybody - if I was why would I have handed it to the guards?
I understand the need to stop this kind of crime on the streets, but the authorities need to realise that people like builders, gardeners and agricultural workers have legitimate reasons to carry knives.
The police treated me with respect and I have no gripe with them for doing their job. But I feel there should be more flexibility in the law to allow for people to carry knives while going about their lawful business. This would have been commonsense years ago.
Mr Read said it was a relief to have received a caution but felt it was important to highlight the issue so that other members of the public do not fall foul of the law.
A spokesman for Norfolk police said lock knives are prohibited and they had no option but to arrest Mr Read. Representatives of the Crown Prosecution Service were unavailable for comment.