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Case Studies

R v W – Acquitted of possession of bladed article – Manchester and Salford magistrates court

The defendant Mr W, was stopped by police and searched in accordance with powers under S2(a) Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 which allows officers to search persons or vehicles where he or she believes that they will find either stolen or prohibited articles including weapons.

He was found in possession of a lock knife and charged with an offense of possession of a bladed article contrary to S139 Criminal Justice Act 1988, an offence for which you can receive up to 6 months imprisonment at the Magistrates Court or four years imprisonment at the Crown Court. Mr W claimed that he used the knife for work.

There were two issues in the case, firstly whether a lock knife is a “bladed article” which the act describes as;

“any article which has a blade or is sharply pointed except a folding pocketknife” [S139 (2)] or a folding pocketknife if the cutting edge of its blade exceeds 3 inches” [S139 (3)].

In this case the blade did exceed 3 inches, however in light of the case R v Deegan [1998] 2 Cr. App. R. 121 CA it didn’t matter as the Court of Appeal had judged that a “lock knife” doe not come into the category of “folding pocket knife” because it is not immediately foldable at all times.

However, under S5 of the Act it is a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to prove that he had the article with him for his use at work, religious reasons or part of a national costume.

The defendant had told police that the knife was used in the course of his employment. The police had chosen not to make any investigations whatsoever, they did not check with his employer could not rebut his assertions that he used the knife for work. Police officers have a duty to investigate offences and the Crown Prosecution Service has a duty to ensure that those investigations take place. All reasonable lines of enquiry should be pursued to ensure that any evidence or material likely to undermine the prosecution case or assist the defence is provided to the prosecutor and taken into account before any decision to charge a suspect is made.

In this case both the police and Crown Prosecution Service failed in their duty and due to his income Mr W was not entitled to Legal Aid and had to fund his case privately.

Following the cross examination of the officer in charge of the Case and examination of the defendant in evidence and submissions to the Magistrates by partner Elizabeth Ridgeway, not only did they find him not guilty of the offence, following an application, they granted a defence costs order from central funds to enable him to reclaim the cost of his defence.

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