Concerns over 'zombie knife' loophole

Concerns have been raised over a “farcical” legal loophole than enables those found in possession of so-called zombie knives in their homes to avoid prosecution or having the weapons seized.

Jan 11, 2022
By Tony Thompson

Under the terms of the Offensive Weapons Act 2019, which came into force in July last year, a wide range of weapons are now illegal even if they are held in a private home.

However, in the case of zombie knives, they need to meet three key criteria to be considered illegal: they must have a cutting edge, a serrated edge and “images or words that suggest it is to be used for the purpose of violence”.

A report by London radio station LBC said: “In practice, this means that police officers are raiding the homes of known criminals and discovering brutal blades that fit all the characteristics of a zombie knife, but if there is no violent writing or imagery on the blade, they cannot confiscate it or bring criminal charges.”

Stuart Nolan of DPP Solicitors, and chair of the Law Society’s criminal law committee, told the station: “You can have and buy quite openly an item that for all intents and purposes is exactly the same as the prohibited item, except it doesn’t have writing on it that involves incitement to violence. The more you say it, the more difficult you may feel it is to understand, but that’s what it says, and I can only interpret the law as I understand it from the statute.”

Patrick Green, chief executive officer of knife crime charity The Ben Kinsella Trust, added: “It’s farcical. The whole premise of the Offensive Weapons Act was to do away with these knives, so I can’t make head nor tail of why you would include a statement which says unless it has certain writing on it, it’s not an offensive weapon.

“These are weapons which are maiming and killing people. The law has to be fit for purpose. This law in its present state isn’t, and that’s a real problem as we try to tackle knife crime.”

Recent data from the College of Policing shows that in London in 2019/20, the vast majority of knives used in murders were non-domestic, such as machetes, zombie knives and hunting knives.

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