Charles Wardle, the Home Office Minister of State, told the House of Commons that the law would be changed to stop people carrying replica firearms who could not prove innocent possession. They would face up to five years in prison.
The move brings the law into line with that on knives and loaded firearms, where the onus is on the suspect to show that they are for an innocent purpose.
Mr Wardle said the total ban the police wanted was impracticable, and added: 'Criminals denied access to imitations may well turn either to the real thing or to other dangerous weapons.'
Alan Eastwood, chairman of the Police Federation, said yesterday that the move was 'frankly pathetic.' 'It is easy to ridicule calls for a ban by talking about toy guns . . . we are talking about exact copies of lethal weapons which are capable of frightening people to death and terrifying the victims of robberies.' He said a first step should be a ban on the manufacture and import of replicas.
The family of Ian Bennett, killed by a police marksman after pointing a replica gun out of a window, lodged a complaint against West Yorkshire Police.