Is a slingshot with metal ball bearings an offensive weapon?

14 October 2020

Not reviewed after the date of publication

Question: 

Please can you confirm if a slingshot with metal ball bearings is an offensive weapon? Is it legal to carry such on the street or would be depend on the person's intention?

Answer:

Section 1 of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953 makes the possession of an offensive weapon without lawful authority or reasonable excuse in a public place an offence.

An offensive weapon is defined in section 1(4) 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, or by some other person.'

There are three categories of offensive weapons from this definition, those that are made to cause injury, those that are adapted for causing injury and those that are not specifically made or adapted to cause injury but carried for that purpose.

Made
This means articles which have been accepted as being specifically made for the purpose of causing injury and have no other practical purpose in the normal world (and are offensive weapons per se). Examples are flick knives, daggers, knuckledusters, butterfly knives, sword sticks, truncheons, daggers and bayonets.

Adapted
This means articles which have generally been altered in some way. Household and industrial items are capable of falling into this category such as sharpened screwdrivers, bottle broken for the purpose etc. However, the article must have been altered with the intention of causing injury (e.g. smashing a bottle to make the broken end into a weapon for causing injury.

Not specifically made or adapted to cause injury but carried for that purpose
There are articles that that are not specifically made or adapted to cause injury but which may be considered offensive if the court or a jury decide the person intended to use it for the purpose of causing injury to the person. For example a hammer, cricket ball, scissors, razor, a stone, pick axe handle etc. Almost any article is capable of being an offensive weapon but if it would not cause injury if used for that purpose, the burden of proof becomes onerous.

It is our opinion that a catapult/slingshot and metal ball bearings could be captured by this definition. The prosecution will be required to prove intent to injure if the article is not one that is made or adapted for causing injury. However, please note that what amounts to an offensive weapon is largely a matter of fact for the court or a jury to determine in the context of a particular case.

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