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Home Secretary James Cleverly defends delay in plan to toughen up zombie knives ban | Politics News

Home Secretary James Cleverly has defended the government’s delay in announcing legislation to toughen up a ban on zombie knives.

The government is introducing new legislation on Thursday to “close the loophole” on the weapons, which were first banned in 2016.

However, it is still common for them to appear in knife crime cases, with actor Idris Elba one of the latest to lend his voice to the campaign to get them banned further.

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Ministers are aiming to make it harder for the weapons to be sold legally, aiming for it to be against the law to possess, sell, manufacture or transport the blades.

Zombie knives are defined in law as blades with a cutting edge, a serrated edge and “images or words that suggest that it is to be used for the purpose of violence”.

The government announced five months ago that they planned to introduce tougher regulations.

Asked why it had taken so long, Mr Cleverly said: “We have already taken action to make the carrying of zombie knives illegal.

“When I became home secretary, I made the immediate decision to go further to put forward this secondary legislation to support what we’ve already done to make the possession of zombie knives illegal and to close that loophole.

“So I’m very pleased we’re taking action now, and we’ll be determined to get these knives off the streets.”

A surrender scheme will be introduced ahead of the new regulations coming into force in September.

The government also wants tougher penalties for those who possess the knives – increasing the maximum sentence from six months to two years.

Read more:
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Teenagers jailed after 16-year-old killed with ninja sword

zombie knives
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The government wants to close loopholes on zombie knives. Pic: PA

Labour promises ‘no more weak warnings’

As Mr Cleverly made the announcement, the Labour Party said it would launch a £100m plan to tackle knife crime if it were to enter government.

The party also promised “real consequences” for knife crime – and an end to the “empty warnings and apology letters” for those guilty of knife possession

“Too many young people are being drawn into squandering their life chances by getting involved in crime. A government that I lead won’t think we can press release away soaring youth crime,” Sir Keir Starmer said.

Reacting to the announcement from Mr Cleverly, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper added: “Six Tory home secretaries have promised these changes, and still they don’t go anywhere near far enough and don’t match Labour’s plans for a comprehensive ban.

“Dangerous weapons like ninja swords, which have been used to kill teenagers, will still be available on Britain’s streets.

“Still, law-breaking online platforms who profit from these illegal sales are being let off with a slap on the wrist instead of facing criminal sanctions. Labour would close these glaring loopholes in the government’s plans.”

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‘Not a black issue, not a London issue’

Home Office minister Chris Philp branded the Labour plans as “just another reheated pledge from the Labour Party using money they have already spent seven times”.

He added: “They cannot say what their plan actually is. Because just like their reckless £28 billion-a-year spending spree they don’t have a plan – meaning higher taxes for the British people.”

‘Zombie drug’ claims first victim in UK and could be in widespread use across the country | UK News

A new “zombie drug” has claimed its first British victim and could be widespread across the UK, experts have warned.

The death of 43-year-old Karl Warburton last May marked the first recorded fatality caused by xylazine, a powerful sedative which has devastated cities across the US.

Used by vets to tranquillise large animals, xylazine lowers the heart and breathing rates to dangerous levels and can cause large patches of rotting flesh when injected, leading to the nickname “zombie drug”.

It is thought that the father of two, who had been referred to addiction services, took heroin which was laced with fentanyl and xylazine.

The factory worker was found in the living room of his home in Solihull, West Midlands

A coroner determined his cause of death as acute aspiration pneumonitis, a lung injury caused by inhaling toxins, and listed xylazine as a contributing factor.

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Tranq: the zombie drug that swept America

The presence of the drug in his system was discovered by “chance” after toxicologists noticed a “strange peak” in the results of his drug screening.

Now experts have warned that xylazine – known on the street as tranq – could already be widespread in British heroin supplies as drug screenings are not designed to detect it.

It has contributed to an epidemic of drug deaths in the US, with research by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) showing it is prevalent in 7% of overdoses across the country – and as high as 26% in some states.

Read more:
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Dr Caroline Copeland, director of the National Programme on Substance Abuse Deaths, led a study into Mr Warburton’s death at King’s College London.

She said it was “highly likely” that the drug is elsewhere in the UK drug market but is not being detected.

Danielle, a mother of three. Until a couple of years ago, Danielle worked as a certified recovery specialist to support people in rehab. She shows the wounds on her arms.
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The wounds it causes have led to xylazine being called the “zombie drug”.

Dr Copeland warned that regular drug screenings should be updated to look for the drug and that users should be made aware of the additional risks of xylazine.

“If it has appeared in one place, it is highly unlikely that this was the only preparation with (xylazine) available,” she said.

“It probably is elsewhere but isn’t being detected.

“The most immediate thing to be done is to tell heroin users that this is around.”