Guidance on definition of what is an 'offensive weapon'

Whilst my son was out shopping the retailer refused to sell him the drain cleaner which I asked him to get for me. He was told this was because he was under the age of 18. My friend told me that he could get in trouble for even carrying it. I did not think it was illegal to sell these products to under 18s. I am now really worried and wonder if you can shed any light on all of this?

Tuesday, 27th August 2019, 1:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 27th August 2019, 1:00 pm
Being in possession of corrosive fluids as an offensive weapon could bring a similar sentence to carrying a knife.

It is not illegal to sell these types of cleaning products to people under the age of 18, however, due to a recent spate of attacks in which acid and noxious substances have been used as weapons, the Government proposed a ban with major retailers to sign up to, which in effect bans the selling of products such as drain cleaner to under 18s.

This is an attempt to reduce the number of so-called 'acid attacks' the country has seen in recent years.

For the first time, official guidance to the courts confirms that acid and other corrosive substances should being categorised as a ‘highly dangerous weapons’. Therefore assaulting someone with acid can be seen as being as serious as if it were with a knife or firearm.

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The definition of an offensive weapon is ‘any article made or adapted for causing injury or intended for such use’. The definition of a ‘highly dangerous weapon’ goes on to say ‘a weapon, including a corrosive substance, whose dangerous nature must be substantially above and beyond this’.

Current guidance from the Sentencing Council also suggests that if a person is caught using or threatening to use acid or other noxious substances as a weapon twice there will be a minimum punishment of six months imprisonment for adults (and for those under 18 a four-month detention and training order).

This matches the minimum sentences imposed for being caught twice carrying a knife.

In some of the most serious cases those found guilty of using acid as a weapon have received 20 years imprisonment.

Essentially although it is not illegal to sell these products to persons under 18 the government and retailers are attempting to tackle the very serious issue of acid attacks by attempting to reduce the availability of it to young people.

This is matched by the new harsher punishments imposed for using or threatening to use acid as a weapon.

Ben Hoare Bell LLP has specialist criminal defence solicitors across the North East. If you require any assistance please phone 0191 565 3112 or email [email protected]. Visit for further information.