Police chiefs bid to prove Government wrong on ban

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A group of senior police officers has set out to prove the Government wrong by constructing a definition of a combat knife in an attempt to have the lethal weapons banned.

Both John Major and Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, have said there is "no workable solution" to the problems of outlawing combat knives. The Prime Minister told the Labour leader, Tony Blair, in a letter on Thursday that no solution had been found which would distinguish combat knives from other knives.

But a committee of the Police Superintendents' Association is to meet next week to try to thrash out a definition of the weapons. If successful, the PSA's conclusions will undercut repeated claims by the Government that a ban cannot be introduced. The Government has already consulted the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Scottish Police Federation on banning knives.

Mr Major has invited "constructive" suggestions on the problem but sources made plain that the Prime Minister had been angered by what he believed was a "stunt" by Mr Blair in an attempt to clamber on board a political bandwagon. Peter Gammon, vice-president of the PSA, said yesterday: "I think there may be some practical difficulties but it is not beyond our wit ... for us to determine the type of weapons to be prohibited."

Brian Mackenzie, national president of the PSA, added that he believed a definition of combat knives could be achieved. "The type of weapons we are talking about have no purposes apart from the purpose of causing grievous bodily harm."

Labour is looking at definitions along the lines of making illegal the sale of knives designed for killing. John Prescott, deputy Labour leader, yesterday went to a London store to stage a photo-call with a combat knife. Holding up a pounds 97 Jack Pike Bowie knife, with an 11-inch blade, and a short peeling knife for the cameras, Mr Prescott insisted it was possible to distinguish the two in law.

"This is a kitchen knife and this is a knife I would describe as a combat knife. This one is concerned with the culture of violence. I cannot accept, and the public will not accept, that you can't draw a distinctive difference between these two knives."