Knife Crime in NSW

Knife Crime in NSW, particularly involving youth offenders, has become a widely covered topic in the media. The highly publicised stabbing of a youth victim at the Easter Show in 2022 as well as other reported incidents has led to a new government proposal seeking to double the maximum penalty available for some knife crime offences.  This article examines the current laws around knife crime in NSW, the proposal for increased punishment and why the media is campaigning for reform.

What are the current offences covering knife crime in NSW?

Knife crime in NSW is currently covered under the Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW) in Division 2, Subdivision 1. The most relevant sections under this subdivision outline the offences of ‘custody of knife in public place or school’ and ‘wielding of knives in a public place or school.’

Section 11C outlines that ‘A person must not, without reasonable excuse (proof of which lies on the person), have in his or her custody, a knife in a public place or school.’

The current maximum penalty if someone pleads guilty or is found to be proven guilty for this type of offence is a fine of $2,200 and/or imprisonment for 2 years.

This offence can however be dealt with by way of a penalty infringement notice of $550 to a first time adult offender, which would not require the offender to attend court. This is not subject to any change.

Section 11E outlines that a person, who without reasonable excuse (proof of which lies on the person):

  1. Uses a knife, or
  2. Carries a knife that is visible,

In the presence of any person in a public place or school in a manner that would be likely to cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his or her personal safety is guilty of an offence. No person of reasonable firmness need actually be, or be likely to be, present at the scene.

The current maximum penalty if someone pleads guilty or is found to be proven guilty for this type of offence is a fine of $5,500 and/or imprisonment for 2 years.

What are the current defences covering knife crime in NSW?

Without limitation, it is a reasonable excuse for the purposes of the aforementioned Section 11C for a person to have custody of a knife, if:

  1. The custody is reasonably necessary in all of the circumstances for any of the following:
    • The lawful pursuit of the person’s occupation, education or training,
    • The preparation or consumption of food or drink,
    • Participation in a lawful entertainment, recreation or sport,
    • The exhibition of knives for retail or other trade purposes
    • An organised exhibition by knife collectors,
    • The wearing of an official uniform
    • Genuine religious purposes, or
  2. The custody is reasonably necessary in all the circumstances during travel to or from or incidental to an activity referred to in paragraph (a), or
  3. The custody is of a kind prescribed by the regulations.

It is not a reasonable excuse for the purposes of this section for a person to have custody of a knife solely for the purpose of self-defence or the defence of another person.

The Proposed Changes by NSW Parliament to Knife Crime in NSW

The Criminal Legislation Amendment (Knife Crimes) Bill 2023 was introduced into NSW Parliament on 20 June 2023. The purpose of the bill was described in the Second Reading Speech as to provide a stronger deterrent against deliberate acts of violence while also better meeting community standards.

The proposed changes have the effect of transferring Section 11C and Section 11E outlined above to the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) adding newly drafted Sections 93IB and 93IC. These two sections largely mirror Sections 11C and 11E. The most notable differences however is that the maximum penalties now double.

Under the newly created Section 93IB, if a person is found, without reasonable excuse (proof of which lies on the person), to have in his or her custody, a knife in a public place or school, they will subject to newly formed maximum penalties of a fine of $4,400 and/or imprisonment for 4 years.

Further, under the newly created Section 93IC, If a person, who without reasonable excuse (proof of which lies on the person):

  1. Uses a knife, or
  2. Carries a knife that is visible,

In the presence of any person in a public place or school in a manner that would be likely to cause a reasonable person to reasonably fear for his or her personal safety is found guilty or proven to be guilty of an offence is subject to a newly formed maximum penalty of $11,000 and/or imprisonment for 4 years.

What is a knife and is it illegal to carry one?

Under the Summary Offences Act, the definition of a knife includes a knife blade, a razor blade or any other blade. This definition broadly covers most cutting instruments such as regular kitchen knives or blades as well as multi-purpose tools.

For items that may fall outside the scope of daily use tools, these are covered under Schedule 1 of the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998 (NSW). These may include flick knives, ballistic knives and sheath knives.

It is not a reasonable excuse for a person to have custody of a knife solely for the purpose of self-defence or the defence of another person.

Practical Response to Knife Crime in NSW

The Government has introduced this bill under the guise of addressing community concern given the very high-profile tragic events involving knives that have occurred over the past 18 months in New South Wales. This is further emphasised by Attorney General Michael Daley in the Second Reading Speech where he noted ‘the dangers caused by the possession or use of knives is unacceptable, and the penalties must reflect the seriousness and gravity of the harm caused.’

The NSW Sentencing Council is currently in the midst of reviewing sentencing for firearms, knives and other weapons offences with a focus on offences involving the use or carrying of firearms, knives and other weapons with the intention of outlining recommendations for reform. Preliminary submissions have been received and next steps are currently being considered. It is intended that these Government reforms complement any recommendations proposed by the Sentencing Council.

Why Choose Australian Lawyers and Advocates?

Being arrested for a knife crime offence is a serious situation and now even more so with the impending increases in maximum penalties. Knife crime offences can now carry even lengthier periods of imprisonment as potential sentences. It is therefore important that you consult with an experienced criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible after you have been arrested or contacted by the Police in respect of an offence. Many law firms claim to be ‘the best’ or ‘leading’ firms. At Australian Lawyers and Advocates, we let our results, reputation and high level of client service and satisfaction speak for themselves. Our team of lawyers are highly experienced, highly skilled and respected advocates.

The content contained within this guide is expressed as a general guide as to this area of law and is not intended to contain legal advice specific to an individual’s case. If you, or someone you know has been arrested or charged with a criminal offence and requires legal advice, do not hesitate to contact Australian Lawyers and Advocates to discuss any criminal law or traffic law matters further.

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