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More ‘zombie-style’ knives to be banned as police given seize and destroy powers

About four in 10 homicides were committed using a knife or sharp instrument in the year to March 2022 (PA) (PA Archive)
About four in 10 homicides were committed using a knife or sharp instrument in the year to March 2022 (PA) (PA Archive)

More “zombie-style” knives and machetes with no practical use are to be banned and police will be given more powers to seize and destroy them, the Government has said.

The maximum sentence for the importation, manufacturing, possession and sale of these newly proscribed weapons will be two years, the Home Office said.

A new offence will also be introduced for possessing bladed articles “with the intention to endanger life or cause fear of violence”.

The Government said the measures, first proposed in April, will be legislated “when Parliament allows” following a public consultation.

The possession of so-called “zombie” knives, currently defined by the Government as a blade with “a cutting edge, a serrated edge and images or words suggesting it is used for violence”, is already illegal.

Under the new measures, the Home Office said the definition will include any bladed weapon more than eight inches long with a plain-cutting edge and sharp pointed end that also has either a serrated cutting edge, more than one hole in the blade or multiple sharp points like spikes.

Ministers hope the changes will close a loophole which has seen some retailers continue to sell dangerous weapons without breaking the law by removing certain banned features.

But shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the newly prohibited weapons “should have been banned years ago”, and accused the Government of failing to properly close gaps in the current legislation.

Police will be given new powers to seize and destroy knives found on private premises if there are “reasonable grounds to believe the blade will be used in a serious crime”, said the Home Office.

The Sentencing Council will also be asked to consider amending guidelines for the possession of bladed articles and offensive weapons so that these are treated more seriously than possession of non-prohibited weapons.

The Home Office said specific exemptions will be made for “legitimate articles” such as objects of historical importance and those that are hand-made, in order to avoid negative effects on the antiques market.

It follows a string of similar announcements by a succession of home secretaries in recent years.

Policing minister Chris Philp said the newly-prohibited weapons “serve no other purpose but to inflate criminal egos and endanger lives” and there is “no reason” to own them.

“That is why we are banning these knives and making sentencing more severe, so our communities can be reassured that this violent criminality will face the punishments they deserve, and lives will be saved,” he said.

Anti-knife crime charity Steel Warriors welcomed the ban on weapons that “have no place in modern society”.

National Police Chiefs’ Council knife crime lead, Commander Stephen Clayman, said the proposals would offer “robust measures” to tackle knife crime “when used appropriately”.

But Ms Cooper said: “This is the sixth time in seven years that the Conservatives have promised to outlaw zombie knives. Time and again the Tories have been hopelessly weak and slow to tackle this serious and dangerous crime.”

In April Mr Philp defended the plans, which will be introduced across England and Wales, in the face of accusations that they were “too little, too late”.

Shadow policing minister Sarah Jones told MPs the measures were a “smokescreen to distract from (the Government’s) appalling record” but Mr Philp said they would help to “go even further” in tackling knife crime, building on the Offensive Weapons Act 2019.

The number of people killed with a knife in England and Wales in 2021/22 was the highest on record for 76 years, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

About four in 10 – 282 – homicides were committed using a knife or sharp instrument in the year to March 2022.

Some 51 teenagers aged between 13 and 19 were among the victims.