Police knife amnesty nets 40,000 weapons

Violent Britain: Vast haul of weapons renews calls for tighter controls 9 Kitchen knife in family tragedy
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The Independent Online

Crime Correspondent

About 40,000 knives, machetes, swords and other weapons were handed in at police stations in England and Wales during a four-week amnesty, it was revealed yesterday.

News of the vast haul of lethal implements was greeted by fresh calls from Labour and a chief constable for legislation to restrict the sale and advertisement of knives. The Home Office is currently reviewing the law on dangerous blades, which includes considering action against shops and mail-order firms.

With results from two of the 43 police forces still to come, the total number of weapons handed in had reached 37,600 yesterday. The final figure is expected to be about 40,000.

The weapons were placed in special bins at police stations in England and Wales. Along with kitchen and sheath knives people also left ceremonial swords, cleavers, flick knives, bayonets, CS gas canisters, air pistols and knuckle dusters. Most will be melted down.

The police said the exercise, which came in response to the murder of headmaster Philip Lawrence, 48, who was stabbed outside his school in Maida Vale, west London, had been a "huge success". In the Metropolitan Police area 3,741 knives were handed in. Staffordshire had the highest turn-out with 4,804 weapons. Surprisingly, some forces with large urban areas had relatively few knives given in, such as in Merseyside were the total was 595.

Maria Wallis, Assistant Chief Constable of Sussex Police, who co-ordinated the campaign, said: "We must start getting the message to young people that it is not macho to carry knives."

She added that some of the weapons handed in might be forensically examined if they were believed to have been involved in a specific crime.

Pauline Clare, the Chief Constable of Lancashire Police, said yesterday that she would support new legislation to outlaw the sale of knives to people without a "legitimate" reason for wanting them. She said sales could be covered by a system of licensing similar to that for firearms.

Sir Paul Condon, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, told the Commons Select Committee on Home Affairs last week that he would support new restrictions on the sale and advertisement of blades. He also warned of a growing knife culture among teenage gangs.

Jack Straw, Labour's home affairs spokesman, yesterday proposed new controls on knives, including a ban on their sale to people under 16 and statutory powers to control the advertising of mail-order sales and the display of military-style blades.

He is also pressing for warning labels to be attached to legitimately sold knives detailing the legal restrictions on carrying them.

The Offensive Weapons Bill, which is currently going through Parliament, will increase the maximum penalty for carrying a knife without a good reason from six months to two years and an unlimited fine.

Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, yesterday praised the amnesty which he described as an "excellent campaign".

Force by force

Police No of knives

Avon & Somerset 624 Bedfordshire 281

British Transport 67

Cambridgeshire 300

Cheshire 747

City of London 21

Cleveland 515

Cumbria 429

Derbyshire 1,064

Devon & Cornwall 1,306

Dorset 418

Durham 388

Dyfed-Powys 289

Essex 1,024

Gloucestershire 429

Greater Manchester 1,397

Gwent 302

Hampshire 1,127

Hertfordshire 754

Humberside 796

Lancashire 1,064

Leicestershire 884

Lincolnshire 649

Merseyside 595

Metropolitan 3,936

Northamptonshire 645

Northumbria 666

North Wales 776

North Yorkshire 739

Nottinghamshire 945

South Wales 804

South Yorkshire 527

Staffordshire 4,804

Suffolk 602

Sussex 1,424

Thames Valley 1,500

Warwickshire 427

West Mercia 835

West Midlands 1,318

West Yorkshire 945

Wiltshire 506

Total 37,578

NB Kent & Norfolk yet to issue figures