ANNA Firth, MP for Southend West, is absolutely delighted at the government’s recent announcement to toughen the law on zombie knives.
The changes will give the police and courts more powers to deal with criminals, and increase the sentence for possession and sale, from six months to up to two years.
Since being contacted by Southend Police last Christmas, when they were unable to immediately confiscate a knife purchased by a 17-year-old boy in Leigh due to it not possessing violent images on the blade or handle despite its 2ft length, Ms Firth has campaigned to close this legal loophole and for the definition of ‘Zombie Knives’, as per the Offensive Weapons Act 2019, to be strengthened.
Ms Firth met with the Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Chris Philp and has raised the issue ten times in Parliament. Ms Firth also convened a ‘Knife Summit’ in Westminster, which was attended by 18 Police Crime Commissioners from across the country, including Essex’s Roger Hirst, frontline police officers, victims and charities, to respond to the Government’s official consultation on tightening knife legislation.
Ms Firth said: “The new measures are a very welcome and timely result of this campaign. In particular, the legal loophole for possession of knives that do not contain offensive images will now be closed once and for all.
“Fear of being stabbed is the number one concern for young people in Essex for the second year in a row, according to a survey by the Police and Crime Commissioner in Essex. There has been an uptick in knife crime, as graphically illustrated by 8 people being stabbed at Notting Hill Carnival last weekend and police statistics indicating that 18% of 20,000 knife possession offences in 2022 involved juveniles.”
Under the measures, the importation, manufacturing, possession and sale of all machetes and knives that are designed to look intimidating and threatening, known as zombie-style knives, will be illegal. Similarly, the maximum penalty for these offences, especially, sale to under-18s, will also be increased from six months to two years.
Police will also 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. Previously, police could not seize knives found during a search on a property, even if they had suspicions of criminal use.
In addition, the Home Office will introduce a new offence for possession of bladed articles with the intention to endanger life or cause fear of violence, and will ask the Sentencing Council to consider amending sentencing guidelines for the possession of bladed articles and offensive weapons so these are treated more seriously than possession of a non-prohibited weapons. Ms Firth understands that the Government proposes a sentence of at least 4 years for this new offence.
Ms Firth added: “I’m absolutely delighted that the Government has listened to my campaign to dramatically strengthen laws around zombie knives and machetes.
“These changes are needed right now – last weekend 8 people were stabbed at Notting Hill Carnival and it’s quite right that the police should be increasing sentences and given more powers to remove these dangerous knives from private homes and from our streets.
“There is no reason why anyone should be in possession of a large, sharp dangerous zombie knife. We’ve seen the results of this in Southend – in March we had a stabbing in Westcliff, and more recently a thug armed with a zombie knife threated 3 boys in Pitsea.
“It is vital we get these things out of people’s homes and off the streets. It’s fantastic to see that sentences have been increased to a proper sentence of two years, including for sale of these weapons to under 18s. We have got to have a proper sentence for these weapons – it only takes a small slip for someone to sustain a life-changing injury.
“I am delighted to have had such success on one of my core campaigns in my first year as an MP. When the Southend police brought this to me over Christmas, I immediately contacted the Policing Minister and it is very reassuring to have a Government that listens, takes action and is 100% committed to making our communities safer.”
Chris Philp, the Policing Minister, said: “One life lost to knife crime is one too many, and we must do all we can to stop the vile thugs who carry dangerous weapons from their campaign of intimidation and violence.
“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.
“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.”
Inspector Paul Hogben, of Essex Police, speaking ahead of the announcement, said: “Southend has seen too many people injured or killed due to knife related violence.
“I personally welcome any legislation that makes it more difficult for people to acquire or possess knives that are clearly designed and carried for the sole purpose of violence.
“I am pleased that work is being undertaken to close a gap in legislation around Zombie knives, which I hope will support us in our mission to keep more people safe”
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