Chopocalypse Now: Government Takes a Slice at Zombie Knives and Machetes

Craig MacKenzie
Craig MacKenzie

Published: September 28th, 2023

6 min

Much has been written recently on government plans to "ban" machetes and zombie knives and claims have been made that possession would be made "illegal".

The government said:

"Machetes and zombie-style knives with no practical use will be banned and police will have more powers to seize them in a bid to crack down on their use in devastating street violence.

"Under the measures, machetes and knives that are designed to look intimidating and threatening, known as zombie-style knives, will be made illegal.

"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."

Many laws are already in place concerning bladed articles and other weapons, which has led many legal commentators to suggest that this is a non-story. However, that would be to misunderstand the government proposals, and it is necessary to research this a little deeper than merely reading a press release to understand what is being planned.

There were in fact, five distinct proposals being consulted on by government, namely:

Proposal 1: Introduction of a targeted ban of certain types of machetes and large knives that seem to be designed to look menacing with no practical purpose.

Proposal 2: Whether additional powers should be given to the police to seize, retain and destroy lawfully held bladed articles of a certain length if these are found by the police when in private property lawfully and they have reasonable grounds to suspect that the article(s) are likely to be used in a criminal act.

Proposal 3: Whether there is a need to increase the maximum penalty for the importation, manufacture, sale and supply of prohibited offensive weapons (s141 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 and s1 Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959) and the offence of selling bladed articles to persons under 18 (s141A of the Criminal Justice Act 1988) to 2 years, to reflect the severity of these offences.

Proposal 4: Whether the Criminal Justice System should treat possession in public of prohibited knives and offensive weapons more seriously.

Proposal 5: Whether there is a need for a separate possession offence of bladed articles with the intention to injure or cause fear of violence with a maximum penalty higher than the current offence of possession of an offensive weapon under s1 of the PCA 1953.

Following the consultation, the government intends to proceed with the measures above and will ask the Sentencing Council to consider amending the Sentencing Guidelines relating to possession of bladed articles and offensive weapons so that possession of a prohibited weapon is treated more seriously than possession of a non-prohibited weapon.

We will, however, need to await the legislation to enact these proposals, which is not likely for many months to come. However, it gives a clear steer as to the government's intentions in this area of law.

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