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Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Bushcraft and the Law; Bushcraft Knives and Tools

Many of the tools we use as 'Bushcrafters' are used daily by people in the countryside management industry 

I suppose this should have been an obvious topic for my 'Bushcraft and the Law' series but, it doesn't occur to me to discuss the topic very often because my work almost always gives me a reason for carrying knives and tools of some description.

A small whittling knife 

And that is the key, having a reason, other than for certain bladed items which are completely prohibited (which don't have any relevance or application to bushcraft) see here for a list, as long as you have a reason you can more or less carry what you want. Yes there is the exception that items with a blade under 3 inches which is non-locking (ie; freely fold-able at all times) can be carried without specific reason, but do remember that there is a time and a place for all things, airports and evenings at the pub for example do not require a knife of any kind.

A puukko knife with a seven inch blade, remember your reason needs to stand up to scrutiny; "I need it for pruning the roses officer" is unlikely to be sufficient if you have something like this on your person. 

There is specific legislation covering bladed items which covers a lot of the tools we use in bushcraft but remember that any tool, or lump of wood for that matter, which you use to intimidate, or is intimidating whether you intend it or not, can be considered an offensive weapon. So the three foot long auger that you are using to put legs on a stool could be considered an offensive weapon if you are waving it around in the park.

If your reason for carrying is insufficient or you don't have one you could be looking at very heavy penalties if convicted. Up to four years in prison and a £5,000 fine, and the penalties for possession (I'm assuming no one reading this is planning to use an offensive weapon) of an offensive weapon are even more severe. 

But the key to avoiding all that is just to be sensible, I have never been stopped and searched or asked for my reason for carrying a knife, and to be honest there are simple things you can do to make sure that no one asks or even realises you are carrying knives, axes, saws or anything else.  

Rules for carrying tools and knives;
  • Never wear knives on your belt or where they can be easily seen in public.
  • Keep all your knives and tools in your bag or rucksack out of site.  
  • Do not get them out in public to show people.
  • You don't need a fixed blade knife to sharpen pencils, open packets, or to pick your teeth in public, use a folding knife or just wait, getting any kind of knife out where you can be seen will cause raised eyebrows nowadays.
  • Do not EVER talk, even jokingly, about using a knife or tool violently or against another person (to put this in perspective if a firearms certificate holder was to joke about shooting someone the police would have grounds to take their firearms certificate away!)
  • Always remember to remove knives you carry or wear on your person before stopping off at the shops on the way home, "I'm on the way back from the woods" is not a reason to have a kukri strapped to your thigh while you buy milk. 
  • Do not give the impression that you are 'up to no good' because people will assume you are, dressing in full camo, crawling around in the bushes, and lighting fires arouse suspicions, always be open with people about what you are doing.
  • Always make sure you have permission to be bushcrafting where you are, if the police are called and you can explain that you have permission from a landowner and you explain exactly what you are doing you are likely to be OK, but if you are skulking in an out of the way corner of the country park and have to leg it when approached you can be sure that things aren't going to go your way. I talked a bit about this in my post on air rifles and will mention it again in my next "Bushcraft and the Law" posts on 'finding a campsite' and 'legal foraging'.   
  • "Have you heard of Ray Mears?" is a great way to explain what you are doing if you are questioned, by the police or members of the public. Almost everyone has and if they have seen him on TV they should realise that you are not carrying out any illicit paramilitary training in the woods. 
  • Finally; Don't argue, start telling everyone your rights, call people 'busybodies' or get angry. I would personally rather be asked what I am doing and don't even mind the police approaching me (this has never happened due to my using knives but I have had the police knock on my door to ask if it was me shooting pigeons around the barns on a farm I used to work at because one of the tenants of the old farm houses had called and reported someone using a firearm), knowing that if someone was up to no good they would be treated the same.       

Some additional guidance is provided on the website here and you can read it below;

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