We would act over combat knives if a definition could be found - Michael Howard

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A combat knife is one in which the ratio of the length to the blade width would be in excess of 12:1 with a cutting edge on both sides of the blade and a tip sharpened to a point with an angle less than 25o. They usually have a cross guard between the blade and handle -

What is a combat knife and how can it be defined legally to distinguish it from a kitchen knife? The answer to this question continued to exercise both politicians and the police yesterday.

Labour continued their campaign to outlaw "Rambo style" knives while the Government pledged to act as soon as someone could come up with a working definition of "combat".

In order to help the politicians, The Independent contacted a range of experts, most of whom supported Michael Howard's repeated assertion that introducing a law that banned combat knives was extremely problematic.

Roger Hamby, of the Cutlery and Allied Traders Research Association (CATRA), said yesterday. "A combat knife would be one in which the ratio of the length to the blade width would be in excess of 12:1 with a cutting edge on both sides of the blade and the tip sharpened to a point with an angle less than 25 degrees. They are almost always fitted with a cross guard between the blade and handle."

He added: "We feel that a combat knife is purely designed to inflict injury or even kill. This can primarily only be achieved by piercing the body beyond a depth of 2 to 3in. In order for this to happen a blade must provide the minimum resistance to penetration which is achieved by the blade being narrow and thin."

Colin Greenwood, editor of the magazine Guns Review, which advertises combat knives, said: "Banning combat knives is utter madness. Yobs don't go out and buy a pounds 97 Bowie knife to mug someone, they use a kitchen or craft knife."

Christopher Sallon QC, chairman of the Bar Council's Public Affairs committee, said: "Any new legislation must be clear, unambiguous, and enforceable. In law it is really difficult to categorise a certain type of weapon as a combat knife."

The Police Superintendents' Association of England and Wales, appeared to draw back from its comments last week that a knife ban was almost certainly obtainable. A statement said: "We are no different to any other person or organisation at present in that we have no clear definition of a 'combat knife' which could be sensibly translated into legislation."

Ian Westwood, vice-chairman of the Police Federation, which represents the vast majority of officers, said: "We looked at the possibility of banning combat knives six months ago, but the difficulty was coming up with a definition to distinguish between knives used in DIY and cooking and those for combat."

The Association of Chief Police Officers added: "The difficulty in banning sales is one of definition. A carving knife and a combat knife might seem different to the public but in a court of law the difference would seem to be less." Michael J Carr, the councillor who instigated Middlesbrough's covenants preventing the sale of combat knives on council property said that the way to solve the problem is not by definition but by targeting the aggressive marketing of knives as weapons.

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