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Zombie knife crackdown launched by Home Office with plans to ban ‘dangerous weapons’

Zombie knife crackdown launched by Home Office with plans to ban ‘dangerous weapons’

Zombie-style knives will be banned under new legislation as James Cleverly defended the government’s record on tackling violent crime.

The Home Secretary said he will seek to close a “loophole” outlawing the deadly weapons with an amendment to the Criminal Justice Act 1988 introduced to Parliament on Thursday.

The blades were first banned in 2016 but ministers hope these tighter measures will stop some retailers being able to sell dangerous knives and machetes without breaking the law.

Ahead of the announcement Cleverly met police chiefs in Kent to discuss youth violence prevention projects and joined officers on a foot patrol of Gravesend town centre.

Asked why the legislation has taken so long, the minister said: “We have already taken action to make the carrying of zombie knives illegal.

“When I became Home Secretary, I made the immediate decision to go further to put forward this secondary legislation to support what we’ve already done to make the possession of zombie knives illegal and to close that loophole.

“So I’m very pleased we’re taking action now and we’ll be determined to get these knives off the streets.”

Announcing the measures, he added: “We cannot let them be sold to children, and we must give young people a way out of violence.”

Jermaine Cools, 14, with his mother Lorraine Dudek (Supplied)
Jermaine Cools, 14, with his mother Lorraine Dudek (Supplied)

The ban, coming into force from September, will make it illegal to possess, sell, manufacture or transport these zombie-style knives and machetes.

So-called zombie knives are 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”.

A surrender scheme is also being put in place for people to give up their weapons before the law comes into force without any consequences.

Mr Cleverly told reporters the steps being taken this week are “further strengthening” the Government’s ability to tackle knife crime.

He added: “We’ll add to what has been a success story since 2019. We’ve seen a very significant reduction in knife crime over that time.

“We have a plan which is working and driving down knife crime.”

Zombie knife attack in front of terrified child in Hackney, east London (PA)
Zombie knife attack in front of terrified child in Hackney, east London (PA)

The Government is also seeking to toughen the penalties for people possessing banned weapons by increasing a maximum sentence from six months to two years.

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.

She said: “Six Tory Home Secretaries have promised these changes, and still they don’t go anywhere near far enough and don’t match Labour’s plans for a comprehensive ban.

“Dangerous weapons like ninja swords, which have been used to kill teenagers, will still be available on Britain’s streets. Still, law-breaking online platforms who profit from these illegal sales are being let off with a slap on the wrist instead of facing criminal sanctions.

“Labour would close these glaring loopholes in the government’s plans.”

Actor Idris Elba has also put pressure on the Government through launching the Don’t Stop Your Future campaign calling for the immediate banning of machetes and zombie knives.

The legislation announcement comes as Labour announced a £100 million youth programme to tackle knife crime.

The new plan, a direct echo of New Labour’s SureStart childcare scheme, would see a nationwide targeted programme aimed at identifying and supporting young people at risk of being drawn into violent crime.

Since 2019, police have taken 120,000 knives off the streets through stop and search and other targeted police action.

Idris Elba during the launch of his Don't Stop Your Future campaign in Parliament Square (PA)
Idris Elba during the launch of his Don't Stop Your Future campaign in Parliament Square (PA)

Latest Metropolitan Police figures show 3,764 people were stabbed across London in the year to December 2023 - around 10 every single day.

Last year, homicide officers probed 110 murders in the capital, one more than the 109 in 2022.

Seventy-one of the killings were committed using a knife.

Fears around violence increased when Harry Pitman, 16, was stabbed to death with a hunting knife while waiting to watch New Year’s Eve fireworks in Primrose Hill.

Harry was the 21st teenager to be killed in London in 2023, 18 of whom were fatally stabbed, two shot and one died after his moped was hit by a car.

The toll marks a 50 per increase on the 14 in 2022 but is short of 2021, the worst year on record when 30 youngsters lost their lives.

In Croydon, the fatal stabbing of Elianne Andam, 15, shocked the community after she was attacked on her way to school in September.

Last year, it emerged the killer of Croydon schoolboy Jermaine Cools, 14, had a history of carrying deadly weapons was on bail for possessing a zombie knife on a bus.

Drill rapper Marques Walker, 16, fatally stabbed Jermaine with a machete on November 18 2021. He was youngest victim of knife crime in the capital that year.

Home Secretary James Cleverly accompanies police officers on a foot patrol on Gravesend High Street (Carl Court/PA Wire)
Home Secretary James Cleverly accompanies police officers on a foot patrol on Gravesend High Street (Carl Court/PA Wire)

Jermaine’s mother Lorraine Dudek slammed inadequate sentencing for juveniles like Walker who no longer fear the courts or police.

She said: “It’s something that is increasingly being seen. Young males being caught with knives released back on to the streets to kill somebody.

“It’s literally like they get caught with a knife, the knife gets confiscated, within an hour they’ve located another knife on Snapchat or social media.”

Ms Dudek added: “Stop and search has its place and it’s very, very good for removing weapons but the follow-up has to be there.

“When Jermaine got stopped and searched I was happy about it. Some parents complain about their children being stopped and searched – that could be the deterrent that stops them.”

London mayor Sadiq Khan said: “It is simply unacceptable that zombie-style knives and machetes are still on the streets of London.

“We’ve repeatedly been promised action, but instead it’s harder for a teenager to buy a lottery ticket than a zombie knife while we’ve seen a merry-go-round of Home Secretaries failing to deliver.”