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Knives law update from BHETA

Following a government briefing and meeting with Metropolitan Police,  BHETA (The British Home Enhancement Trade Association) has updated its members on the implications of the latest information from Government on the timing and scope of the proposed Offensive Weapons Act (OWA).  The proposed legislation affects the sale of all kitchen knives, regardless of size or design, cutlery knives, bread knives and butchers’ knives, including meat cleavers, as well as scissors with points.

The Home Office Serious Violence Unit has again confirmed that ‘it is the Government’s position that these measures should be commenced as soon as possible’, but that it remains aware of the desirability of a three-month notice period – which BHETA lobbied for in 2020 – to enable suppliers and retailers to adjust.

While most legislation is typically introduced in October or April, it is anticipated that guidelines for the Act may be confirmed before Christmas for commencement ahead of April 2022.

Based on the current consultation information originally put out in August 2019, this would mean that suppliers of the following items will need to adapt their packaging, presentation and ensure age-verified deliveries for online or mail order sales.

Appropriate age verification systems are required for all retail and online sales to prevent persons under 18 from buying a bladed article.  While the courts will be the final arbiter, all sellers including online sellers will be held responsible for the efficacy of their system.  In store, it is likely that the use of Challenge 21/25 will be sufficient to avoid prosecution, leading to significant changes in packaging, presentation and POS as well as the training of retail staff.

Above: Knives retailers are using Challenge 25 signage in stores.
Above: Knives retailers are using Challenge 25 signage in stores.

For online sales, clearly marked packaging will need to be supported by correct delivery procedures including age verification of recipients, with no locker or ‘safe place’ deliveries and ‘collection point’ only where in-person verification can take place.  Age verification via payment system will not be acceptable and nor will any system which relies solely on information provided by the purchaser.

BHETA’s marketing manager, Steve Richardson commented, “While this may appear to be a reiteration of the Government’s earlier position, it is important that members take account of recent market developments in terms of which of their products and routes to market may now be affected – regardless of the exact implementation date.

“This legislation is coming and not only do suppliers of the obvious food preparation products need to be ready to react to the implications, but other companies also need to be ready whether that’s because their products could now be included, or because their routes to market put them into a new area of consideration.

“Put bluntly this is not just about suppliers of kitchen knives into bricks and mortar retailers.  Many suppliers across housewares, DIY and garden have in the last 18 months moved more of their business direct to the consumer via online sales.  This may well raise legislative issues that are new to them in terms of home-based age verification, and product labelling

“BHETA not only has the latest information but also draft templates for the additional marketing, sales and delivery assets which are shortly going to be required, subject to final Home Office confirmation.”

Commenting on the update, BHETA’s ceo Will Jones, who chairs BHETA’s safe retail of bladed items steering group said, “It is to be hoped that the Government sticks to its plan to provide the industry with a notice period, which is one of the points about which BHETA has been lobbying.  Both suppliers and retailers need to be able to adjust to the new requirements in a positive manner, and for that some advance notice is required.  This legislation has been delayed by the pandemic crisis, but it is going to happen, and we all need to be exploring the practical measures needed to achieve a positive result.”

* BHETA has headed up a steering group with leading knives suppliers and retailers and has been working with the Metropolitan Police on the project since summer 2019.

* For more information about BHETA, BHETA lobbying and the BHETA responsible knife retailing campaign, contact Zara Miah at BHETA member services on 0121 237 1130, or alternatively, email on, or visit the BHETA website


Top: Knives are among kitchen essentials. Photo by Lalesh Aldarwish

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