Anna Firth, MP for Southend West, is absolutely delighted at the new government legislation on zombie knives 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 confiscate a knife purchased by a 17-year-old boy in Leigh-on-Sea due to it not possessing violent images on the blade or handle despite its 2ft length, Anna has worked tirelessly to campaign for this legal loophole to be closed and the definition of ‘Zombie Knives’ as per the Offensive Weapons Act 2019 to be changed.
She has raised the issue ten times in Parliament, and 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. She also met with the Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Chris Philp immediately after Recess had concluded, and responded to the Government’s official consultation on tightening knife legislation.
A 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. Given the uptick in knife crime, illustrated by 8 people stabbed at Notting Hill Carnival this week and police statistics indicating that 18% of 20,000 knife possession offences in 2022 involved juveniles, the new measures are a welcome result of this campaign, as the legal loophole for possession of knives that do not contain offensive images will be closed.
Under the measures, machetes and knives that are designed to look intimidating and threatening, known as zombie-style knives, will be made illegal. Current legislation does not allow for the police to seize these items unless it is required as evidence in a criminal investigation, which will change under new measures. Similarly, the maximum penalty for the importation, manufacturing, possession and sale of these newly proscribed weapons will also be increased from six months to two years, as will the maximum penalty for sales to under-18s.
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.
Anna Firth MP for Southend West said:
‘I’m absolutely delighted about this announcement, which I’ve been campaigning on for the whole of this year.’
‘These extra powers are needed right now – 8 people were stabbed at Notting Hill Carnival this week 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 on 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.’
‘We have got to take 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 seen this legislation through in my first year as an MP. When the South Essex police brought this to me over Christmas Recess, I took it straight to Parliament as soon as the House was sitting again. It’s fantastic to see the progress that has been made in this window.’
Chris Philp, Policing Minister said: '
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.'