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LGA - Ban on 'zombie' knives urgently needed, say councils

The Local Government Association (LGA) is calling for sales of the horror-film inspired weapons – advertised as collector items but used by criminal gangs - to be outlawed and an industry-backed code of practice launched to stop the irresponsible advertising of all knives.

The blades, which are up to two foot in length and have names such as Head Splitter and Apocalypse Head Decapitator, can be legally bought from UK-based websites and delivered straight to people's homes.

New figures show overall knife crime in England and Wales rose by 9 per cent last year, while offences for possessing a blade increased by 15 per cent. London recorded a seven-year high in knife crime after 19 people were killed by knives last year.

Other areas, such as Greater Manchester and the West Midlands, have seen possession of weapon offences, including knives, rise by 21 and 16 per cent, respectively.

The LGA, which represents councils in England and Wales, is calling on government to categorise zombie-style knives and add them to the list of weapons already banned under the Knives Act such as flick knives, sword sticks and weapons associated with martial arts.

An industry-backed code of practice on the naming, promotion and packaging of all knives also needs to be created - similar to that of the alcoholic drinks industry - which would promote the responsible sale of knives. Under current legislation it is legal to sell zombie-style knives in Britain to anyone aged over 18 and keep them in a private residence but they cannot be legally carried in public.

But teenagers are buying the knives online and they are being used in horrific crimes. In November last year a 15-year-old schoolboy was stabbed twice with "very large knives" outside a London primary school, with one blade passing through both sides of his body.

Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA's Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said:

"Irresponsible online retailers are playing with fire by unwittingly feeding a new knife trend which could lead to tragedy.

"These so-called zombie knives have only one lethal purpose – to threaten, injure or kill someone. Yet under current laws they can be ordered with a couple of clicks online and kept in people's homes. This only serves to increase the number of lethal blades in society and flies in the face of anti-knife crime policy.

"With knife crime rising, businesses should frankly think about their wider responsibilities and voluntarily withdraw from sale these deadly weapons which have no other purpose than to cause harm. If they don't, then they need to be outlawed.

"A code of practice – similar to those set up by the drinks industry – should be established to ensure retailers stop glamourising knives. Certain knives have a practical use in the home and garden, but these zombie knives are being recklessly marketed as ‘collectables' with no legitimate usage. They need to be banned as soon as possible to help safeguard our communities."

While different types of knives are not recorded in official crime figures, police say zombie-style knives are becoming more common, with criminal gangs brandishing them in online videos.

Police found a two-foot ‘Apocalypse Head Decapitator' and another zombie-style knife in London last summer. It is thought that many similar knives have been seized since then but not publicised for fear of encouraging the knife trend.

Specific types of knife and other weaponry can be banned under secondary legislation to the Knives Act. Bans are already in place on the sale of at least 13 different types of blade.

Several councils have set up local charters for knife retailers to promote responsible trading and prevent illegal underage sales of knives to young people.

Notes to editor

  • According to the Office of National Statistics, there was a nine per cent rise in offences involving knives or sharp instruments in England and Wales in the year up to September 2015, while possession of an article with blade or point increased by 15 per cent during this period
  • In the year up to September 2015 possession of weapon offences in Greater Manchester and the West Midlands rose by 21 and 16 per cent, respectively.
  • It is a criminal offence to possess a knife in public without good reason, and if a person is convicted a second time they face a minimum mandatory custodial sentence. The maximum penalty for an adult carrying a knife is four years in prison and a fine of £5,000.
    Under the 1997 Knives Act, it is illegal to:
    • sell a knife to anyone under 18 (16 to 18 year olds in Scotland can buy cutlery and kitchen knives) unless it's a knife with a folding blade 3 inches long or less, e.g. a Swiss Army knife
    • carry a knife in public without good reason - unless it's a knife with a folding blade 3 inches long or less
    • carry, buy or sell any type of banned knife
    • use any knife in a threatening way
  • Lock knives (knives with blades that can be locked when unfolded) are not folding knives, and are illegal to carry in public without good reason.
  • For full details of the 1997 Knives Act and banned knives visit www.gov.uk/buying-carrying-knives
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