A campaign by the Exeter Express & Echo to ban the sale of samurai swords is poised for victory after the Home Office said sales could be outlawed by the end of the year.
The Echo mounted its campaign after a samurai sword was used to murder a local man while he was trying to calm an argument which had spilled out of a nightclub. His killer was sentenced to life last year.
Backing the call for a sword ban were the victim’s family, police chiefs, council leaders, Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw and 1,500 readers who signed a petition that was taken to 10 Downing Street.
Lord Jones of Cheltenham, whose aide, Andrew Pennington, was killed in a samurai sword attack, also endorsed the campaign.
Ben Bradshaw, a former Express & Echo journalist himself, said: “I very much welcome the announcement, which follows up a commitment Tony Blair gave Echo readers.
“Violent crime has come down significantly in Exeter in recent years. Banning dangerous weapons, such as replica samurai swords, will help bring it down further.”
The measures were announced this week and if they become law, the sale, importation and hiring of imitation samurai-style swords will be banned.
Those who flout the ban would face up to six months in jail or a £5,000 fine.
The Echo has campaigned for samurai swords to be outlawed since the city killing in July 2005. There have been 79 serious crimes in England and Wales involving samurai sword-type weapons in the past four years.
If the Government goes ahead with the plans, samurai sword imitations would join 17 other weapons, including knuckle-dusters and batons, on the Offensive Weapons Order. It is an offence under section 141 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 to sell, manufacture or import any of the offensive weapons listed.
Exemptions in the legislation would allow collectors to keep hold of genuine samurai swords, and types used for martial arts could also be retained. Carrying a samurai sword in a public place already carries a maximum jail sentence of four years.
Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker said: “Samurai sword crime is low in volume but high in profile and I recognise it can have a devastating impact. Banning the sale, import and hire will take more dangerous weapons out of circulation, making our streets safer.”
Express & Echo deputy editor Andrew Howard said: “If our campaign helps save a single person from being hurt by such weapons again, it will have been worth all the effort. Once again our readers have come up trumps in helping us get a change in the law.
“This campaign demonstrates once again that together, we can make a difference to the lives of the people we serve.”