Q&As

In what circumstances can the lawful authority defence be used in a prosecution for possessing a bladed article?

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Published on LexisPSL on 28/07/2016

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  • In what circumstances can the lawful authority defence be used in a prosecution for possessing a bladed article?

In what circumstances can the lawful authority defence be used in a prosecution for possessing a bladed article?

Section 139(4) of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 provides a defence for the accused to prove that he had good reason or lawful authority for having the article with him in a public place. The accused must prove his good reason on a balance of probabilities so that merely providing an uncontradicted explanation is not necessarily sufficient (see Godwin v DPP (1993) 96 Cr App R 244 (not reported by LexisNexis®)). In R v Jones, the Court of Appeal held that where there is a mistaken belief in facts which, if true, would have constituted lawful authority, it is capable of being a reasonable excuse, and the judge should so direct the jury, leaving the jury to determine whether the defendant has proved his belief in the requisite facts and whether in the circumstances that belief amounts to a reasonable excuse. The Divisional Court in L v DPP, held that the reverse onus provision in section 139 meant that there was a strong public interest in the restriction of knives in public places and it was not offensive to the rights of an individual to require the carrier to show that he had good reason for doing so. Moreover the reason would be

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