In Depth

What are zombie knives – and why are they being banned?

Sellers face up to four years in jail when new law comes into force later this week

A ban on "zombie knives" comes into force this week in England and Wales – and will help "keep communities safer", says the government. So what are they and what harm have they caused in the UK?

What are zombie knives?

Also called "zombie killer" knives, they are ornate blades sometimes printed with skulls or toxic-warning symbols inspired by horror films. The ban specifies a zombie knife has a cutting edge, a serrated edge and "images or words that suggest it is to be used for the purpose of violence".

Where are they sold?

The blades have been available online and in some shops for as little as £8, says the BBC. Last year, the Express & Star newspaper in the Midlands found 1,600 such knives on auction site eBay, some branded "head splitter" and others decorated with "blood spatter".

Who buys the knives?

Although they are often targeted at "collectors", the blades are being bought by gang members in the UK and often displayed on social media, police say. Their large size makes them shocking – and more dangerous.

Have they proved fatal in the UK?

Yes. In May, Blaise Lewinson, 17, was jailed for life for stabbing to death Stefan Appleton in a London park. According to the Daily Mail, Appleton, also 17, was stabbed once in the leg and once in the chest with a 25ins blade. Serial killer Joanna Dennehy also posed for a photograph with one of the knives before stabbing three men to death.

What has been banned?

From Thursday, it will be illegal to manufacture, sell, import or rent knives of this sort in England and Wales. Anyone caught breaking the law will face up to four years in jail. Safeguarding minister Sarah Newton said the ban would "keep communities safe", adding that the knives "glamourise violence" and have "no place whatsoever in our society".

Does the ban have any pitfalls?

A musician called Laynx told BBC's Newsbeat the knives could become more of a status symbol now. "I think if anything, [the ban will] increase knife crime. It's exclusive now because it's banned. Whoever's got these can sell them now and make a killing," he said. 

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