'What took you so long?': Families of murdered teens react to changes in knife crime laws

  • Warning: Some details in Gregg Easteal's report may be upsetting

The mother of a teenager killed on Wearside with a so-called 'Rambo' knife has welcomed news that the government has banned the sale of the weapons but says it should have happened a long time ago.

Zoe McGill's son Jack Woodley died in Houghton le Spring in October 2021, after being attacked by a group wielding a 25cm Rambo knife. He was trying to leave a fairground with his girlfriend, but never made it home.

The government has now taken tougher action on gaining access to the weapons as well as imposing tougher sentences for those who buy and use them. However, Ms McGill says the decision should have come sooner with too many young lives lost to knife crime during the delay.

Zoe McGill's son Jack Woodley was killed in October 2021. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

"It should have happened a long time ago in my eyes," she told ITV Tyne Tees. "These Zombie knives don't have any part in society. They have no use other than causing tragedy."

Her views were echoed by the sister of murdered Wallsend teenager Samantha Madgin, Carly Barrett.

Samantha was just 18 and had recently become a mother when she was stabbed to death in 2007. Her killer was just 15 years old.

Carly Barrett's sister Samantha Madgin was murdered in 2007. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Ms Barrett said the law changes are long overdue and must be punishable by the courts to deter young people from carrying deadly weapons.

She also questioned whether young people take knife crime laws seriously, given sentences may not reflect the nature of the crime.

"It's up to four years you get for carrying a knife," Ms Barrett said. "But we speak to the young people and we know nobody who actually got those sentences. So for young people, in their heads, it's like 'Yeah, I can carry a knife because nothing is going to happen to me.'"

What are the proposed changes to the law?

The maximum sentence for the importation, manufacturing, possession and sale of these newly proscribed weapons will be two years, the Home Office said.

A new offence will also be introduced for possessing bladed articles “with the intention to endanger life or cause fear of violence”.

The government said the measures, first proposed in April, will be legislated “when Parliament allows” following a public consultation.

"Zombie” knives are defined as a blade with “a cutting edge, a serrated edge and images or words suggesting it is used for violence”. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Ministers hope the changes will close a loophole which has seen some retailers continue to sell dangerous weapons without breaking the law by removing certain banned features.

But shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the newly prohibited weapons “should have been banned years ago”, and accused the government of failing to properly close gaps in the current legislation.

In an exclusive investigation by ITV Tyne Tees in June, we showed the weaponry an 18-year-old can legally put together online in a matter of minutes.

None of the purchases were illegal and were completed using a laptop, debit card and the internet. During our investigation, we found the items added to an online shopping cart could be purchased by 18-year-olds still at school or in college.

After seeing what we purchased online the Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria, Kim McGuiness, backed calls for changes in the law to raise the age at which knives can be bought in-store or online.

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