More “zombie-style” knives and machetes will be banned and the police will be given more powers to seize and destroy them, under plans announced by the Home Office.
A new offence will also be introduced for possessing bladed articles “with the intention to endanger life or cause fear of violence”.
The maximum sentence for the importation, manufacturing, possession and sale of the weapons will be two years, the Home Office announced.
The government said the measures, first proposed in April, will be legislated “when parliament allows” and after a public consultation has taken place.
The possession of so-called “zombie” knives, which the government defines as a blade with “a cutting edge, a serrated edge and images or words suggesting it is used for violence”, was made illegal in 2016.
Under the new measures, the Home Office said the definition of a zombie knife would be expanded to include any bladed weapon more than eight inches long 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.
The government hopes the changes will close a loophole which has allowed some dangerous weapons to be sold without breaking the law by removing certain banned features.
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Recent figures revealed that the number of fatal stabbings in England and Wales was at its highest level since records began more than 76 years ago.
The Office for National Statistics said 282 homicides were committed using a knife or sharp instrument in the year to March 2022 – a 19% rise compared with the previous year and the highest annual total since records began in 1946.
Some 51 teenagers aged between 13 and 19 were among the victims.
Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the newly prohibited weapons “should have been banned years ago”.
“This is the sixth time in seven years that the Conservatives have promised to outlaw zombie knives,” she said.
“Yet even now they are still failing to close the loopholes that mean they can still be sold online. Time and again the Tories have been hopelessly weak and slow to tackle this serious and dangerous crime.”
Currently, the law stipulates that if police find a machete or other legal blade in somebody’s home they are not allowed to seize or act on it, even if they believe the knives could be used criminally.
But police will now be given new powers to seize and destroy knives found on private premises if there are “reasonable grounds to believe the blade will be used in a serious crime”, the Home Office confirmed.
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The Sentencing Council will also be asked to consider amending guidelines for the possession of bladed articles and offensive weapons so that these are treated more seriously than possession of non-prohibited weapons.
Some machetes and similar knives can have “legitimate uses”, such as for gardening, but the Home Office warned criminals are “buying, selling and using larger bladed articles as weapons to intimidate and cause others serious harm”.
The department said specific exemptions will be made for “legitimate articles” such as objects of historical importance and those that are hand-made, in order to avoid negative effects on the antiques market.
Policing minister Chris Philp said the newly-prohibited weapons “serve no other purpose but to inflate criminal egos and endanger lives” and there is “no reason” to own them.
“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,” he said.