Khan pushes government for stricter ban on ‘zombie’ knives

The knives were added to the government’s list of prohibited offensive weapons in 2016 but campaigners argue a “legal loophole” still needs to be closed, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Sadiq Khan at Mayor's Question Time
Under pressure – Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is facing calls from Theresa Villiers to keep Barnet police station open

Sadiq Khan has urged the government to press ahead with a stricter ban on zombie knives and machetes, as he criticised ministers for “unacceptable delays”.

The mayor renewed his call for action just weeks after actor Idris Elba accused politicians of not giving the issue “the focus it deserves”.

A zombie knife is defined as having “a cutting edge, a serrated edge and images or words suggesting it is used for violence”.

They were first added to the government’s list of prohibited offensive weapons in 2016, but campaigners argue that a “legal loophole” still needs to be closed before the knives can effectively be considered banned.

Police have been particularly unable to deal with zombie knives designed to get around the 2016 definition by not having intimidating images or words on them.

In August 2023, the Home Office announced plans to create a stronger definition for the weapons and give police extra powers to seize them, but it is unclear when the new law will come in.

Khan said: “It is simply unacceptable that zombie-style knives and machetes are still on the streets of London and the UK eight years after ministers first proposed banning the sale of the blades.

“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.

“These unacceptable delays must end and I urge the Home Secretary to urgently bring forward and toughen up this legislation to finally end the scourge of these weapons on our streets.”

In a meeting with Home Secretary James Cleverly later this week, the mayor will say he is concerned about remaining loopholes, such as manufacturers changing designs to get around the new definition. The government’s proposed measures cover knives that have either a serrated edge, more than one hole in the blade, or multiple sharp spikes.

The latest proposals also allow for machete-style knives that have a “legitimate use”, including for work or leisure. Khan argues there is not enough evidence to support knives like these being used in London for such purposes, and that they are purchased solely to inflict violence and to intimidate.

The Home Office has been approached for comment. A spokesperson said in response to similar concerns in October: “It is already an offence to carry a bladed item over three inches in public without good reason and it is also an offence to threaten them with such a weapon.

“We are also giving the police more powers to seize these dangerous weapons.”

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