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How do 'anti-stab' knives work?

15 June 09 13:45 GMT
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Kitchen knives are the most common weapon used in fatal stabbings, say police. Now a new "anti-stab" knife has been developed, but how does it work?

Knife crime is hardly out of the headlines these days and it makes grim reading.

Stabbing deaths hit a record high of 322 in the UK last year, according to the government. Most knives used in such attacks are from the kitchen, former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair suggested.

The first "anti-stab" knife will soon go on sale in Britain and has been designed to work as normal in the kitchen, but be ineffective as a weapon.

The knife has a unique "combination tip" that reduces the risk of injury. The tip has a rounded edge instead of a point and the blade for cutting is underneath. While it can chop vegetables, the tip makes penetration more difficult. It also snags on clothing and skin, making it very unlikely to inflict a fatal wound.

Doctors have lobbied in the past for kitchen knives to be redesigned. They argue that while a redesign is not a complete solution to the complex problem of knife crime, it could help to save lives.

The New Point knife has been developed by industrial designer John Cornock, who was inspired to create the product after watching a documentary on knife crime. It has taken four years to develop.

'Intelligent design'

The knife has a blunt "upper protrusion" with a rounded edge which acts as a guard for the sharp point underneath. It has an undercut that snags on clothes, skin or tissue.

A sharp point underneath is used in the usual way as a standard knife point but with limited penetration. An ergonomic handle also reduces the aggressiveness of the product.

"The common kitchen knife has remained unchanged for centuries so now we're hoping to introduce a safer, more intelligent design for the modern home," says Mr Cornock.

He says a knife can never be totally safe, but the idea is it can't inflict a fatal wound. Nobody could just "grab one out of the kitchen drawer and kill someone".

The knife, which is expected to be launched in late autumn, has been tested with "very favourable" results by the Home Office's Design and Technology Alliance - set up to research products that can deter crime. It has also been welcomed by those in the medical profession and the police.

Dr Mike Beckett, clinical tutor at West Middlesex Hospital, has previously called for knives to be redesigned. He says all products should combine efficiency in their intended purpose with the greatest possible degree of safety.

"This is especially true of household products which are freely available to the very young and very old, and used by people who may be clumsy, short tempered, drunk or mentally or physically unwell. Most people fit into one or more of these categories at some time in their lives."

Det Insp Mark Clarkson from the Metropolitan Police's Anti-Knife Crime Unit says he has tested the new knives and believes the design can reduce both accidental harm within the kitchen and stab-like injuries in general.

Designs for another "safe" kitchen knife were unveiled by Staffordshire County Council's trading standards officers in April this year. The council is looking to work with manufacturers and retailers to introduce it nationally.

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