Zombie-style knives and machetes to be banned after gangs exploit weapons loopholes for savage robberies
The sale and possession of machetes and zombie-style knives are to be outlawed by ministers after gangs exploited legal loopholes to use the weapons for savage robberies.
Policing minister Chris Philp is to rewrite weapons legislation to make it an offence to sell machetes or unmarked zombie-style knives, a type of bladed weapon inspired by zombie films, online or in high street shops and to possess them in the home.
It follows warnings by police chiefs, MPs and local politicians that they are excluded from current offensive weapons laws. The loophole has been blamed for an increase in robberies where thieves have used machetes to threaten victims before stealing watches and other valuables.
Among the victims is Conservative councillor Andrew Dinsmore, who was mugged for his watch by machete-wielding thieves on a moped in broad daylight on a south-west London street.
He has since gathered more than 136,000 signatures for his petition to ban the sale of machetes. His attack was one of 90 similar incidents in a two-month period by robbers in his area.
“Machetes are everywhere,” he said. “You can buy them online, with the retailers trying to sell you a balaclava at the same time. This has to stop. There is no legitimate use for these weapons. We banned flip blades, we banned samurai swords – now we need to ban machetes.”
The problem was also raised with ministers by the then Met Police deputy assistant commissioner Graham McNulty, as the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s (NPCC) lead for knife crime.
Knife crime has increased by nine per cent in the past year with 45,000 offences, a rise of 34 per cent compared with a decade ago.
However, under the Offensive Weapons Act of 2019, police can only confiscate and prosecute possession of zombie knives if they have a cutting or serrated edge and “images or words (whether on the blade or handle) that suggest that it is to be used for the purpose of violence”.
Machetes have no such markings, while suspect retailers have been selling zombie knives without any writing or images on them or even packaging which would allow police to seize them under the 1997 Knives Act.
Barrister Anna Firth, Tory MP for Southend West, was alerted to the loophole at Christmas when a 17-year-old was reported to police by his carer after receiving a package with an unmarked zombie knife.
Police officers told her they would not have been able to seize the weapon and prosecute the teenager had the family not kept the packaging with its violent imagery and words.
“Knife crime is a massive problem in seaside towns like Southend where there is a tradition of young people meeting up and taking knives with them. We need to close these loopholes and ban the sale of these weapons,” she said.
Ms Firth is also pressing for a ban on retailers selling other weapons such as hunting knives without proof of age. “I would go further and say that if you want to buy a knife like this, you have to go and pick it up in person,” she added.
Whitehall sources said Mr Philp was seeking to ban machetes and unmarked zombie knives “in the near future” once there had been a consultation on the proposals.
A Home Office spokesman said: “Too many young lives have been lost through serious violence and we have robust measures on the sale of offensive weapons online. We have already banned the sale and possession of a wide range of offensive weapons.
“We continue to keep knife legislation under review and are working closely with the National Police Chiefs’ Council to look at what more can we do to tackle knife crime, including the use of machetes in crimes.”
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said: “Labour has called for this ban repeatedly but the Tories have dragged
their feet for too long. They need to get a move on.
“Knife crime has increased by 70 per cent in the last seven years and they have failed to act while young lives are being destroyed by these dangerous weapons.”
Labour is expected to confirm on Thursday that bosses at tech firm such as Amazon, eBay and Instagram would face jail if they failed to remove deadly weapons being sold on their platforms.
The party would introduce laws to close loopholes that are failing to punish online companies hosting sales of dangerous knives even though they are illegal to trade in the UK.
There is growing concern over the availability of machetes, zombie knives and other dangerous weapons being sold by third party sellers on online market places.