The Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959 banned the carrying, manufacture, sale, purchase, hire or lending of flick-knives and ''gravity knives''. The Criminal Justice Act 1988 contained a list of prohibited martial arts-style weapons and made it an offence to carry an article with a blade or sharp point in a public place. The Offensive Weapons Act 1996 made it illegal to sell knives to children under 16. The Knives Act 1997 prohibited the marketing of combat knives.
There is a wide recognition in policing and criminal justice circles that, unlike gun crime, the pattern of knife crime has not been closely monitored. There is little doubt that gun crime, particularly handgun crime, has more than doubled since Labour came to power - again despite legislation, in the form of a post-Dunblane ban on handguns.
The estimate of up to 57,900 annual "knifing or stabbing" victims comes from the Government's Offending, Crime and Justice Survey (OCJS) which, like the bigger British Crime Survey (BCS), questions people about their experiences of crime.
However, because the number of victims of violence in such surveys are relatively small, extrapolated conclusions are correspondingly less reliable.
The BCS suggests the number of violent incidents involving knives in 2005/2006 was, at 169,000, around half the level of 340,000 in 1995, though it had increased on 2004 - 2005 and had been rising since the previous year The proportion of overall violent incidents involving knives was eight per cent in 1995 and seven per cent in 2005 - 2006.
BCS findings also suggest that the use of knives in woundings, common assaults and robberies followed similar patterns - significant falls on 1995 but an upwards trend since 2003. Homicides involving "sharp instruments" - knives and bottles - have fallen since 1995 as a proportion of overall killings. There were 236 in 2004 - 2005.
There is no statistical uncertainty about someone being stabbed to death. However, the accuracy of other findings have been questioned - not only is the sample of victims of violence relatively small but the BCS does not quiz under-16s, a major tranche of victims.
Police recorded crime statistics - traditionally lower than BCS levels - do not reflect the use of knives and few forces have copied the lead of the Metropolitan Police in analysing knife crime.
Scotland Yard said there had been 11,168 "knife-enabled offences" - covering everything from murder to robbery with a knife - in the 10 months to February this year.
If the Met can be held - crudely in statistical terms - to represent around a fifth of England and Wales crime, that might suggest well more than 60,000 knife-enabled crimes a year. Very roughly, that would fit with the belief of some criminologists that knife crime runs at four times gun crime.
However, it is also clear that knife crime - as gun crime - is not evenly spread. Taking out the knife violence which occurs in the home in domestic attacks, the pattern of "public" knife violence shows, in the words of a report from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College, London: "Knife, like other violent crime, is suffered most by the young, the poor and the black and ethnic minority communities."
As with gun crime, there is concern about the increasingly young age at which people admit carrying knifes, in part to feel "safer." Knife violence has emerged in schools and there have been murders in Lincolnshire as well as London. Guns are more difficult for youngsters to obtain.
However, research has suggested that when young white schoolboys admit to having carried a knife, they are talking about legal pen-knives less than three inches in length.
The use of illegal knives is higher for young men from ethnic minority backgrounds and, invariably, from "less safe" inner city areas.