We were asked a question recently about wooden truncheons and the Offensive Weapons Act 2019.
This came into force on the 14th of July 2021. This section made amendments to the Criminal Justice Act 1988 which we have wrote about before.
We were asked specifically about Section 66, Part 4, Annex A – list of offensive weapons, which now specifies the following as an offensive weapon:
q) a straight, side-handled or friction-lock truncheon (sometimes known as a baton)
That would seem to indicate a ‘straight truncheon’ or a ‘straight baton’ is now defacto an offensive weapon. It wasn’t before.
However, the wording here is rather ambiguous and leaves much to interpretation. What is a straight truncheon? Is this one?
If I were a barrister, I’d argue there isn’t a straight edge on it.
There is no exhaustive legal definition of “truncheon” or “baton”. Like much of the law, it’s open to interpretation – why we have courts (and let’s be honest, when discussing definitions, our politicians, police and judges cant even define what a woman is nowadays).
In the English language, one might suggest a “straight truncheon” refers to a type of baton or club that has a straight and rigid shaft without any curvature or ergonomic design. It typically lacks a side handle or a friction lock mechanism. The term “straight” emphasises that the truncheon does not possess any angled or curved features in its construction.
A vintage design wooden truncheon such as the police used to use does have an ergonomic design and curved features.
The terms “truncheon” and “baton” are widely open to interpretation. The Offensive Weapons Act 2019 does not specify what a truncheon or baton might be, the implication being the two terms are interchangeable, but are they?
The terms “truncheon” and “baton” are often used interchangeably and can refer to similar types of impact weapons. However, there may be some subtle distinctions in their usage and design depending on the context.
“Batons”, for example, encompass a broader category of impact weapons that can have different purposes. They can be used for strikes, joint locks, or defensive techniques, and their design may vary accordingly.
The Act appears to use the term “baton” solely in relation to friction lock or telescopic batons. The phrasing “friction-lock truncheon (sometimes known as a baton)”, suggests this by the singular use of “truncheon” after “friction lock”, and “baton” added for clarification in brackets.
This is a friction lock baton.
You might call that a straight truncheon. English is a funny language, isn’t it?
The Offensive Weapons Act 2019 and the Criminal Justice Act 1988 are separate pieces of legislation in the United Kingdom, each addressing different aspects of criminal law. While the Offensive Weapons Act 2019 introduced new provisions regarding offensive weapons, it does not necessarily override or repeal the entirety of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. That act outlawed: ”
- (j)the weapon sometimes known as a “telescopic truncheon”, being a truncheon which extends automatically by hand pressure applied to a button, spring or other device in or attached to its handle;”
When new legislation is introduced, it can either repeal or amend existing legislation, or it can introduce new provisions that work alongside the existing law. In some cases, there may be overlapping provisions or inconsistencies between different laws, which can require interpretation by the courts. In this case, the 2019 section (q) revision seems to be included in the 1988 act retrospectively.
Guidance as to typical exemptions is written into legislation. For example, specific provision is made for museums, galleries and theatrical performances, the production of films and television programmes. Nor can you be prosecuted for the possession of antique items. It might be a fair argument that a reproduction of an antique item should be treated as an antique item. What if a reproduction item was bought as a gift but believed to be an exempt antique by the new owner? Again, that is a question for interpretation by a court.
Why would someone specifically seek out a reproduction of an antique item to use as an offensive weapon? It makes no sense, does it? There must be far more effective weapons available if you want to bash little old dears over the head outside the Post Office on pension day.
Is a rolling pin a straight baton? You might argue it was if someone was beating you around the head with one. Not if someone was baking a cake. Similarly, is a truncheon a weapon if the person owning it is a collector, enthusiast, actor or museum curator? We’d suggest not.
What about if it was used in role-play, re-enactment, fancy dress or for a school topic? We discuss carrying a truncheon in public in >this article<. Many of the innocuous reasons someone might carry one that is discussed there would seem to be more than adequate for simply owning one too.
Many police forces are now buying our reproduction truncheons to have engraved and given to officers on retirement. Here’s one of our truncheons made for marketing purposes using the name Gene Hunt from TV’s Life on Mars.
Would you be a criminal if you owned that? The law might suggest so if it were applied to the letter. Yet many retired policemen buy our truncheons for nostalgic purposes – some email us to tell us how good and authentic they are after they have received them.
Of course, when seeking to apply the law, a police officer or prosecutor must apply a common sense test. Nothing is black and white. If it were, many former police officers who either kept a truncheon for nostalgic reasons or those who were given one on retirement would all be subject to prosecution. And that would be absurd, wouldn’t it?
The law is a complex and intricate system that is open to interpretation, rather than being followed rigidly to the letter. This is due to the inherent nature of legal language, which can sometimes be broad or ambiguous, allowing for multiple interpretations. Take, for instance, a knife. While it can potentially be used as a weapon to harm someone, it is also commonly used in daily life for practical purposes such as cutting food. Similarly, a baseball bat can be used as an offensive weapon, but it is primarily intended for baseball. These examples illustrate the importance of considering the context and intent behind the use of an object when interpreting the law.
In situations where the law is not crystal clear, it becomes crucial for the police and prosecutors to exercise common sense and apply a reasonable interpretation. They must take into account the specific circumstances, and the purpose or intent behind an individual’s actions, and evaluate whether there is a genuine threat or harm involved. For example, when encountering an individual in possession of an old-style police truncheon, it would be essential to consider whether the individual’s intent is to use it as a weapon or if it is simply a nostalgic item with no harmful intentions. This approach ensures that the law is applied in a fair and just manner, considering the broader context and promoting a balance between public safety and individual freedoms.
Ultimately, the interpretation of the law requires a nuanced understanding of the intent, context, and practical implications of an individual’s actions. By employing common sense and taking into account the specific circumstances, the police and prosecutors can navigate the complexities of the law, ensuring that justice is served and maintaining a fair and balanced legal system.
As we can see here and from other articles on this site, the whole subject of weapons, the definition of weapons and their use in self-defence is rather a grey area open to much interpretation when it relates to something like a vintage design police truncheon.
Stay on the right side of the law is our advice. In order to do that you must have a reasonable grasp of the law and its intent. Read all the articles on this site for a general overview as no single article can tell you everything you may want to know.
As they say on the television programme Law and Order: In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups: the police who investigate crime, and the Crown Prosecutors who prosecute the offenders.
It’s important to remember the police are not lawyers. They’re not judges. The ultimate decisions about what is and isn’t lawful, reasonable excuse, proving intent and all the other factors involved are for a court to decide, and a court only. The CPS generally don’t refer a matter to court unless they think they have a good chance of winning.
If you live in the USA or many other countries, carrying wooden truncheons for self-defence and/or other purposes is completely legal in many states.
If you want a traditional British police-style wooden truncheon, we sell an exact replica of a 1960s Leeds City Police one with a leather lanyard at a very reasonable price (they’re so good, even police forces buy them). Click the button below to find out more.
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