What is a zombie knife? Knives and machetes with certain blades to be banned

New laws are set to outlaw dangerous machetes and knives with zombie-like blades.

Rishi Sunak first proposed these laws last year, and they are now being laid to Parliament. These laws will make it unlawful to own, distribute, produce, or transport the controversial weapons.

Prior to the formal surrender and compensation plan being introduced in the summer, the government is inviting anyone in possession of one of these weapons to voluntarily place it in a knife surrender bin.

This will allow those who may be in possession of these blades to turn them in without fear of legal repercussions, and it will get them off the streets as quickly as possible.

The complete prohibition will take effect in September, and anyone found in possession of one of these knives will be subject to jail time.

The government will cooperate with law enforcement, local communities, and other partners throughout this period to make sure that the public is aware of the surrender programme, which has been used in conjunction with knife bans in the past.

This is just one element of a larger set of steps the government is doing to make the already-toughest knife crime laws in the world even stronger. Any weapon carried in public without a valid reason is prohibited by law and is punishable by up to four years in prison. In 2016, the government outlawed zombie knives, and in 2019, cyclone knives were outlawed.

Under new changes, a maximum two-year prison sentence could be handed down to anyone found in possession of them. Those manufacturing and selling zombie knives could also face prison time. But, the progress on passing the legislation has been slow and several cases involving zombie knives have occurred since.

In September, 15-year-old Elianne Andam was stabbed on her way to school with what was believed to be a foot-long, serrated zombie blade. Tributes poured in for the south London student and aspiring lawyer who was reportedly knifed in the neck. A 17-year-old boy has been charged and will face trial in the spring. He cannot be named for legal reasons.

Meanwhile, a 16-year-old boy has been charged with murder in connection with the New Year's Eve stabbing of Harry Pitman.

Knife crimes increased by nine per cent in 2022 and around 45,000 offences were recorded. Last year, there were just over 19,000 cautions and convictions made for possession of a knife or offensive weapon, with 18 per cent of the cases involving juveniles.

The recent senseless deaths highlight the ongoing plight of blades on the streets of the capital.

But what exactly is a zombie knife?

What is a zombie knife?

A zombie blade taken from a Hackney estate by police (Waltham Forest Police / PC Ware)
A zombie blade taken from a Hackney estate by police (Waltham Forest Police / PC Ware)

A zombie knife is a bladed weapon that has been increasingly linked to violent crimes and gang use. Inspired by zombie films, they often have one smooth blade and one serrated edge.

These knives can come in a variety of sizes and shapes, but they tend to feature graphics or text (whether on the blade or handle) that suggest they should be used for violence.

Past rules on zombie blades

The Government said in 2016 that work was underway to create laws to outlaw zombie knives when Theresa May was the home secretary.

Later the same year, it made an announcement prohibiting the sale, production, and importing of zombie knives in England and Wales.

Although laws have prohibited certain zombie knives since 2016, there have been loopholes in regulation that allowed sales to continue. Some retailers dodged the restrictions by removing threatening words from the weapon.

This implied that, even if they think the weapons were used to commit a crime, police couldn’t seize them if they were discovered in someone's home.

What does the new rule mean?

A new definition was outlined in August that states a zombie-style knife is “any bladed weapon over eight inches in length 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”.

According to Home Office plans police will be given the authority to seize some items with blades, even if they are not illegal. This aims to stop the loophole that allows some retailers to continue selling zombie blades.

The maximum sentence for importing, producing, or providing illegal offensive weapons or selling bladed items to those under the age of 18 has been extended, from six months to two years in prison.

Speaking about the measure, Policing Minister Chris Philp said: “Zombie-style knives and machetes serve no other purpose but to inflate criminal egos and endanger lives. There is no reason to own these types of weapons.”

He added: “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.”

In October, Mr Khan called on the government to speed up the legislation banning the sale of zombie knives and urged them to close the number of loopholes in the current proposals.