HC Deb 03 March 1983 vol 38 cc358-9
5. Mr. Race

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent representations he has received concerning the definition of offensive weapons.

Mr. Mayhew

We are not aware of any recent representations specifically about the definition of "offensive weapon" contained in section 1 of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953.

Mr. Race

In view of the widespread concern in many communities about the new stop and search powers of the police, does the Minister agree that it is about time that there was a change in the definition of "offensive weapon" to exclude such everyday items as coins and bunches of keys? Is he aware that many people believe that the police will use that very wide definition of "offensive weapon" to stop people whom they do not like?

Mr. Mayhew

I do not think that that is true. The definition has been on the statute book for almost 30 years. It has not caused any significant difficulties. The powers of stop and search are dependent on reasonable grounds for suspicion.

Sir Dudley Smith

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that any unusual item found on a burglar or housebreaker who is caught could well be described as an offensive weapon?

Mr. Mayhew

That depends upon the circumstances. The definition broadly states that any person who, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, having on him in a public place any offensive weapon, is guilty of an offence. An offensive weapon is defined as any article made or adapted for use for causing injury to the person, or intended by the person having it with him for such use by him".

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Would it not be correct to define a cruise missile as an offensive weapon? Has the Home Secretary received the letter that I sent to him yesterday from one of the fine, courageous women at Greenham Common, drawing attention to the violence being practised by the police against women at that site?

Mr. Mayhew

The hon. Gentleman and the women to whom he referred should reflect on how fortunate they are to live in a country, protected as it is, in which they can send such letters.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree—

Mr. Cryer

The Minister does not mind people being beaten by the police; is that it?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) must not shout in that way while another hon. Member is speaking.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that the skean-dhu, which is worn by many Scots, could be described as an offensive weapon? Is it not true that under the present stop and search regulations the police apply their wisdom and recognise that individuals wearing the kilt and the skean-dhu are not carrying an offensive weapon to be used in an offensive way?

Mr. Mayhew

I am sure that my hon. Friend is right. I am equally sure that I would be extremely unwise to venture further on that matter.