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Is it legal to use lock picks in the UK?

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It's probably the most asked about question in locksport.  We examine UK law and the ethics of lock picking in this article so you can be 100% confident.

Lock picking can be a rewarding hobby and can quickly become an obsession (and even a career) but one of the longest running debates behind it is - is it legal? You'll find many forum posts asking exactly that but behind the hearsay there is a little truth mixed up with conjecture and wrapped in fear.

Is it legal to own lock picks?
In short: Yes. 

What everyone uses to drive fear into wannabe lock pickers is the old 'going equipped' line.  But there is one simple riposte to this and guess what, it's the very same statute that this old lie comes from.  Let's look at what the statute says.

A person shall be guilty of an offence if, when not at his place of abode, he has with him any article for use in the course of or in connection with any burglary or theft.
Theft Act 1968, Section 25.

So what does that mean?
They key phrase there is 'when not at his place of abode'.  Meaning that if you're in your own home with any lock picking equipment, of any sort, then it's legal and you're OK.  End of.

What if I'm carrying them in my pocket out in town, or they're in my car and I'm stopped by the Police?
Now you've made things a little more difficult!

You could definitely fall under Section 25 with this but there is also context.  For example lets imagine two scenarios.  

In the first it's 3:00 am in the morning and you're outside the door of a house that is not your own.  'Ello 'ello calls our friendly local bobby.  I think we all know what happens next.  See you in 3 years' time, sooner if you've been good.

Second scenario.  Again carrying our trusty lock picks in your jacket inside pocket, this time we're out in town doing a bit of shopping with our significant other.  'Ello 'ello bellows our local bobby (who's not following us by the way!) and incidentally the picks fall to the ground.  Do you have a defence?  Are you still committing an offence?  Of course not! But the law utilises two very old concepts that we'll look at next.

Actus Reus & Mens Rea
What?  These are two latin phrases that apply to, almost all, criminal offences (we're not getting too technical - promise!)  What this means in short is that in order to prove an offence has been committed you have to show they have committed the act and intended to do it. So if you have no intention of popping back into Tescos and fiddling with their locks the law will have a hard time to prove you're intending to commit a crime, remember the onus is on them to prove it, not you to prove your innocence.

Summary
So to sum up if you own lock picks and you're in your own home then you'll never be committing an offence.  But if you're out and about with your trusty lock picks you're being a little risky, so best to keep them at home!

Sources:
Theft Act 1968, section 25

Enough! Let's Buy Some Lock Picks!

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