Page last updated at 15:57 GMT, Monday, 2 October 2006 16:57 UK

Shops ignore Samurai sword advice

by Jonathan Morris
BBC News South West

Samurai sword
The swords are available at little cost

Samurai swords are freely available in Plymouth despite a police campaign to restrict their availability, BBC News has found.

Five shops are still selling the swords which were being used in attacks once a week last year in Devon and Cornwall.

The incidents include the murder of Devon man Matthew Stiling last July, which ended in a guilty verdict against Bradley Moran on Monday.

Moran, 24, of Newtown, Sidmouth, was jailed for life.

'Over-reacting'

Devon and Cornwall Police said in January that their campaign to reduce the number of swords available had been a success.

But a BBC News investigation found they were still available in city martial arts and militaria shops - and they are cheap to buy.

Two swords, 29in and 21in-long, cost only £36.95 for the pair and are available legally to anyone over 16.

People only break the law if they are used as a criminal weapon.

Bradley Moran
Bradley Moran stabbed his victim after an argument
Mae Wong, who sells three types of Samurai swords at Dragon Corner in Plymouth, said she was aware of the concerns.

"Every time there is an incident with Samurai swords it gets lots of publicity. But a letter opener or even a nail is just as dangerous," she said.

"Most people buy them just for decoration. We only sell about three or four a year."

Devon and Cornwall Police have renewed their call for shops not to sell the swords, and urged anyone who has one to hand it in.

Mr Stiling, 33, had been on a night out in Sidmouth when his group was involved in arguments with another group. Bradley Moran then got two swords and stabbed him.

Det Insp Ken Lamont, of Devon & Cornwall Police, said: "A Samurai sword [used] at that time of night by someone possibly under the influence of drink is a recipe for disaster."

Matthew Stiling
Matthew Stiling was killed after a night out
Some local martial arts enthusiasts own the swords and they too say they are only dangerous when used irresponsibly.

Devon martial arts enthusiast Chris Birch said: "It's the same as a piece of wood, a baseball bat, or a kitchen knife.

"You have to get very, very close to somebody to use it. Anybody wielding anything would be exactly the same."

Police maintain that they have reduced the number of incidents involving Samurai swords.

Chief Supt Bob Pennington, head of force operations, said: "We have gone from one Samurai sword incident a week to having one incident involving the weapons during the campaign, which ran from September last year to January this year.

"We have almost eradicated this type of violent crime by working in partnership with local communities and businesses."

Home Office Minister Hazel Blears said last December she was "looking seriously" at outlawing the weapons.



SEE ALSO
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