Practice and Procedure

R v SEAN GILES (2003)

PUBLISHED February 6, 2003

The judge was right to direct the jury to convict for possession of a bladed article where the defendant had no specific good reason for carrying a knife, the fact the knife was a multi purpose tool and carried out of habit was not a good reason.Appeal against conviction with leave of the single judge. On 11 November 2001 at Cambridge Crown Court before HH Judge Howarth the defendant ('G') was convicted, at the direction of the judge, of possession of a bladed article contrary to s.139 Criminal Justice Act 1988. G was acquitted of wounding. On 29 September 2000 a small group of people, including the victim ('V') had met in the market place in town. G, who did not know anyone in the group, was asked for some tobacco which he gave them. He showed a girl his hand held computer. One of the girls took the computer from him and hid it as a joke. G took her purse and telephone which was on the bench beside her and walked off. The group followed to get the purse back and surrounded G in an alleyway. G waved a knife around and said "If you don't move away I'll stab you". He managed to escape and ran away in the direction of the police station. V gave chase and caught up with him. G punched V in the stomach, V subsequently stated that it was probably then that G stabbed him. G ran away, threw the knife into a garden and was stopped by a patrol car. At interview G said he had been at home using the knife, which was a "Swiss army knife", to scrape paint from a guitar that he was renovating and that he used it on a daily basis. Before going out he had returned the knife to a pouch in his belt where it was ordinarily kept, it was not visible as his shirt was over the top. It was his habit to carry it around with him as it was a multi-purpose utility tool. G stated that he pulled the knife out to defend himself and that he didn't know it was illegal to carry it. G accepted that it was capable of causing really serious injury and that he had had to open out the blade deliberately, which then locked. G said that in the alleyway V had lunged towards him and it had been then when he was stabbed. The knife was 8 cm long and had several other tools on it. The trial judge directed the jury that it was illegal to carry the knife unless G had had a good reason or lawful authority to do so. The jury was directed that a habit was not a good reason and therefore the only possible verdict was guilty. G appealed on the grounds that: (i) the knife was a utility tool and he didn't have to provide a specific good reason for carrying it, relying on DPP v Gregson (1993) 96 Cr App R 240 ; and (ii) there was sufficient evidence of good reason for the matter to have been left to the jury.HELD: (1) The legal burden was on G to prove, on the balance of probabilities, a good reason for having a bladed instrument. If sufficient evidence was raised the matter should have been left to the jury. (2) The knife carried by G offended s.139 of the Act as it was a lock knife and had a blade over 3 inches long. The fact that an article prohibited under s.139 was part of something that had other features, not prohibited, did not make the prohibited article legal to carry. That would lead to the situation whereby every implement covered by the section would not need a specific good reason to be carried if it had other attachments on it. (3) Section 139(4) provided the defence of good reason or lawful authority. The sub-section directed attention to the particular time when the article was in possession. G had to have a specific good reason for having that article in that place at that time. It was not enough that he might have considered using one of the other attachments at some stage. (4) G had no excuse for possession of the knife. It was just the kind of situation Parliament had in mind when prohibiting knives in public places. Plainly there was no evidence of good reason and the judge was right to withdraw the matter from the jury. (R v Deegan (1998) 2 Cr App R 1296 considered).Appeal dismissed.