Offence of threatening with an offensive weapon etc in a private place

Part of Offensive Weapons Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:30 pm on 28th November 2018.

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Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Labour, East Ham 5:30 pm, 28th November 2018

Given the constraints on time, I will speak only to new clause 23, from among the six new clauses that I have tabled, which deals with a particularly important subject.

It might come as a surprise to the House, as it did to me, to learn that weapons that cannot lawfully be purchased in the UK can be purchased online without anyone committing an offence. That cannot be right. The aim of new clause 23 is to plug that gap. It differs from the proposal that we debated in Committee as it allows for a defence if the website removes the offending advertisement for an illegal weapon within 24 hours of being informed of it. That reflects some recent helpful discussions that I have had with eBay about the practicalities of implementing the change that I propose.

The background is that the Criminal Justice Act 1988 introduced a list of weapons that are illegal to sell in the UK, which was expanded in 2002 to include disguised knives. A disguised knife is

“any knife which has a concealed blade or concealed sharp point and is designed to appear to be an everyday object of a kind commonly carried on the person”.

It is now illegal to sell that kind of weapon in the UK.

I have been speaking to Mr Raheel Butt, who runs an organisation in the borough of Newham called Community and Rehabilitation Solutions. He is from a gang background and has served a prison term, but since he left prison in 2012, he has made it his mission to stop others making the mistakes that he made. He has pointed out to me that a lot of the weapons being used to kill young people on the streets of our cities, as my hon. Friend Vernon Coaker pointed out, are being bought online, a lot of them from eBay.

I should say that since I raised these points in Committee, disguised knives have been removed from eBay, although they can still be freely found on other websites. Mr Butt tells me that it is on those sites that those who are killing young people are getting their weapons. However, is it illegal for a website with a UK domain name to advertise weapons that are illegal to buy in the UK? Surely the answer ought to be yes, yet there is some uncertainty about that. If I understood her correctly, the Minister advised us in Committee that she thought that it was unlawful for an illegal weapon to be sold in that way, but then she wrote to us and said, “Actually, no. There is a defence available, because these are simply platforms.” My argument is that selling a weapon on a UK website that it is illegal to purchase in the UK should be illegal. That is the aim of my new clause 23.