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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 December 2007, 11:20 GMT
Ban on imitation Samurai swords
Samurai sword
Imitation Samurai swords: Cheap on the internet
Imitation Samurai swords are to be banned after a spate of attacks in the UK, say ministers.

The Home Office has confirmed plans to outlaw the weapons in England and Wales after putting forward the idea earlier this year.

Home Office minister Vernon Coaker said there was a clear danger to the public posed by easily-available swords.

The proposal is expected to stop short of banning genuine Japanese swords held by collectors or genuine enthusiasts.

In March 2007 the Home Office proposed banning imitation Samurai swords after representations from both MPs and the public. Ministers in Scotland had proposed a similar move in 2006.

In the wrong hands, samurai swords are dangerous weapons
Vernon Coaker,
Home Office minister

Calls for a ban came after a number of high-profile incidents in which cheap Samurai-style swords had been used as a weapon.

The Home Office estimates there have been some 80 attacks in recent years involving Samurai-style blades, leading to at least five deaths.

While genuine Samurai swords are part of Japanese history and change hands for large sums of money, there is a trade in imitation blades which can be bought over the internet for as little as 35.

Jail threat

Under the proposals, the government will ban the import, sale and hire of Samurai swords from April 2008.

Anyone breaching the ban will face six months in jail and a 5,000 fine.

However, ministers say they have recognised there is a special case for exemptions for genuine collectors of the original weapons and acknowledge there is a legitimate role for the blades in some forms of martial arts.

Vernon Coaker said: "In the wrong hands, samurai swords are dangerous weapons - there have been a number of high profile, serious incidents involving samurai swords in England and Wales in recent years.

"It is therefore crucial that we take this action to tackle the menace of violent crime.

"We recognise it is the cheap, easily available samurai swords which are being used in crime and not the genuine, more expensive samurai swords which are of interest to collectors and martial arts enthusiasts."

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Thomas Roe: Jailed recently in Lincoln

In 2000 Andrew Pennington - an aide to former Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones - was murdered when Robert Ashman attacked both men at a constituency surgery in Cheltenham.

And at the beginning of December this year a Lincoln man was jailed after using a Samurai-style sword to murder a passer-by whom he thought had attempted to rape his wife.

The Association of Chief Police Officers has backed the Home office move saying that while the weapon is relatively uncommon, there is justification for a ban.

While genuine collectors such as museums will still be able to trade in the weapons, it remains unclear what measures will be put in place to prevent people from buying cheap blades via the internet, already considered a major marketplace for the swords.

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