By Leigh Simms, 05-Oct-2011 20:37:00
Are kubotans illegal to carry in a public place?
The subject kubotans and whether they are legal to carry in the UK (England & Wales) is much discussed subject. All over the internet there are people promoting and selling kubotans who tell us they are legal to carry. At the same time there are many others telling us that they are illegal to carry.
If you are teaching any form of self-defence then I think it is vital that you give correct and up to date information to your students. What good is a self-defence instructor who tells his students to go carry kubotans and then one of those students ends up in a prison cell for carrying an illegal weapon? On the other side, there could be the self-defence instructor who has told his students not carry kubotans, when in fact they are perfectly legal, therefore removing a perfectly legal item from they key chain, that could help protect that student in the future. It is because of these two reasons that I have decided to investigate this question.
Before I get into the main points of this article, I will briefly describe what a kubotan is. For those who don't know, they are usually described as Self-Defence weapons that attach to your keys. They are, on average, 14cm long with a 1.5cm diameter. A picture is attached for clarity near the bottom of the page.
I want to turn your attention to the criminal offence that would occur if kubotans are illegal. In The Prevention of Crime Act (1953), section 1 states that; “Any person who without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, ....... has with him in any public place any offensive weapon shall be guilty of an offence.....”.
What constitutes an offensive weapon was set out in a case called Re v Simpson 1983. In this case it was decided that there are three categories of weapons. The first category is “weapons made for use for causing injury to the person.” Obvious examples would be guns, bayonets, grenades etc...
The second category is “any weapon adapted for such a purpose.” An example of one of these could be a bottle that has been deliberately broken so that that the jagged end may be inserted into the face of the victim.
Finally the third category relates to “an object not so made or adapted but one which the person carrying intends to use for the purpose of causing injury to the person.” A baseball bat would be an example of a weapon that fits in this category.
Kubotans are likely to fall into category 1 as their prime selling point is it's ability to be used as a weapon. Although they are labelled as “self-defence” weapons, you can see by the three categories above there is no category for “self-defence” weapons. The whole purpose of the kubotan is to “cause injury to another person”, albeit in self-defence, but that does not matter as we are dealing with carrying the weapon and not necessarily using it.
The defenders of kubotans usually disagree with this categorisation and claim that the kubotan is actually a keyring first and foremost. This is a weak argument as there are even books on how to use the kubotan to injure people (in self-defence) by the creator of the kubotan
Even if we accept the notion that the kubotan is also a keyring, even then the law will class it is an offensive weapon. In the case of R v Vasili 2011, the courts explained that even if the offensive weapon has a dual purpose, it does not mean that the non offensive purpose removes the offensive purpose. In our example of the kubotan, even though it is also a key ring, because it is a key ring does not in anyway negate it being a weapon. Therefore it is still classed as an offensive weapon.
I must now make it clear that I have applied the law in question, but there has never been a case in the UK (England & Wales) courts that has come across a kubotan. If a case ever arose where the defendant pleaded that the kubotan is not an offensive weapon, it would be up to the jury to decide if it is offensive or not. This was decided in the case of Re V Williamson 1978.
Because of this rule, until a case comes up or the government produce legislation stating that kubotans are illegal, there will always be a small element of doubt on whether or not they are illegal or not. Section 141 of the Criminal Justice Act lists a range of offensive weapons from shuriken (death stars) to “spiked kubotans”. It does not mention the standard kubotan.
I find this strange odd due to the fact that kubotans are known to the courts as they recognised them by outlawing “spiked kubotans”. But this element of uncertainty has, in my view, been removed with a recent case involving a British celebrity; Darren Day. He was found guilty of carrying an offensive weapon. The weapon in question was in fact a kubotan.
The Darren Day incident happened in Edinburgh, so it was heard by a Scottish Court and therefore has no binding rule on the rest of the UK (England & Wales). However these cases can be, and usually are, highly influential when deciding cases in the UK in the future.
In conclusion, whilst there is no 100% certain decision on the legality of kubotans, after researching the current law from the UK and Scotland, it seems very likely kubotans are offensive weapons. As a result of this, I would not risk carrying one myself or encourage others to carry them.
Cases & Legislation
Criminal Jistice Act 1998 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1988/33/section/141
Prevention of Crime Act 1953 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Eliz2/1-2/14
Re Simpson  1 W.L.R. 1494
R v Vasili  EWCA Crim 61
R v Williamson (1978) 67 Cr. App. R. 35
“Kubotan Keychain: Instrument of Attitude Adjustment” by Takayuki Kubota (Inventor of the Kubaton) -
Darren Day – BBC news report - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/edinburgh_and_east/8606969.stm
Leigh Simms 2011 ©
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