Co-authored by: Grace Jolly
KEY TAKE OUTS:
- A new Bill has been assented in NSW Parliament to increase the penalty rates for possessing, carrying, and using a knife in public places or schools.
- In comparison to other Australian jurisdictions, these proposed reforms will have the highest maximum penalties in the country for possession and use of knives by individuals in public places and schools.
- The maximum fine for possession of a knife is set to increase from $2,200 to $4,400 and for wielding a knife has been increased to $11,000.
Tougher Penalties to Address Knife-Related Crimes
It is thought that by implementing a tougher maximum penalty, a stronger message about the seriousness of knife-related crime will be portrayed.
Currently, these offences are found in sections 11C and 11E of the Summary Offences Act, however, the main difference is that the maximum penalties have been doubled. Due to this, the offences can no longer be classified as a summary offence, therefore they will be moved from the Summary Offences Act to the Crimes Act 1900.
These proposed increases in penalties are necessary to immediately respond to serious incidents involving knives to better protect the safety of the community. The NSW Attorney General, Michael Daley said “The Government is acting to address understandable community concern given the high-profile tragic events involving knives that we have seen in NSW over the last couple of years”.
Understanding the New Offences:
This new Bill covers three knife related offences:
- Custody of knives in public places or schools;
- Use of knives in public places or schools and;
- Carrying knives in public places or schools.
The Substance of the Bill
Schedule 1 of the bill introduces new sections 93IB and 93IC into the Crimes Act 1900.
It is now an offence under section 93IB of the Act to be in custody of a knife in a public place or a school. This offence carries a maximum penalty of a fine of $4,400, imprisonment for 4 years or both.
A further section was introduced, section 93IC of the act which applies if a person uses or carries a knife that is visible, if the use or carrying occurs:
- In the presence of a person; and
- In a public place or school; and
- In a way that is likely to cause a reasonable person to reasonably fear for the person’s safety.
This section holds a maximum penalty of a fine of $11,000, imprisonment for 4 years, or both.
Also, new section 93IA provides definitions for the terms used in the new offences. This section provides that a person must not have in the person’s custody a knife in a public place or a school, holding a penalty of 40 penalty units, imprisonment for 4 years or both.
New section 93IB(4) provides that it is not a reasonable excuse for the person to have a knife in the person’s custody:
- For self-defence.
- The defence of another defence.
Criticisms of the bill
The Law Society of New South Wales wrote a letter to the NSW Attorney General expressing their concerns about the introduction of the new bill.
They pointed out that this is a critical opportunity to implement an effective criminal justice reform that is informed by legal experts.
Their criticisms are as follows:
- It is noted that these offences do not involve any injury or wounding and therefore the maximum penalty being four years it should not be considered appropriate for the conduct in these provisions.
- These offences are already correctly categorised as summary offences, under the Summary Offences Act, and should not be moved to the Crimes Act.
- If implemented, this proposal will exacerbate the pre-existing concern that low-level offenders will face disproportionate high maximum penalties.
- While the “reasonable excuse” defence is available, the onus of proof is reversed, with the defendant having to prove that they had a reasonable excuse for possession.
- The bill will have a disproportionate and detrimental impact on vulnerable groups, including children and people experiencing homelessness, instead of the intended deterrent effect.
In summary, the introduction of this new bill will significantly impact and change legislation. By doubling the penalties, the NSW Government argues these measures are crucial to address community concerns, yet as discussed above some legal experts have serious concerns about the way this is being implemented.
How can Coutts help?
Whether you have concerns about the changes or need clarity on how these might affect you, the Coutts criminal team is here to provide expert advice, support, and representation. Don’t leave your questions unanswered—reach out to us today for comprehensive legal assistance tailored to your needs. Contact us now to start the conversation.
ABOUT LARA MENON:
Lara Menon joined the Coutts Lawyers & Conveyancers team in August 2018, working within our Criminal and Family Law teams. Her swift advancement from Paralegal, Law Graduate, Lawyer, Senior Lawyer and most recently, Senior Associate in February 2022, is a testament to her astute legal skills and commitment to client service excellence.
Earlier in 2019, Lara was selected by the NSW Law Society to undertake an internship with the NSW Coroner’s Court, working as a Judge’s Associate for the Deputy State Coroner.
For further information please don’t hesitate to contact:
ABOUT GRACE JOLLY:
Grace joined the Coutts team in August 2023 as a Paralegal working in the Criminal & Family Law teams, from our Camden office.
Grace is currently in her 2nd year studying a Bachelor of Laws and Business at Wollongong University.
She is passionate about the law and looks forward to learning new things. At the completion of her degree, she looks forward to practicing as a Lawyer at Coutts.
For further information please don’t hesitate to contact:
Contact Coutts today.
This blog is merely general and non-specific information on the subject matter and is not and should not be considered or relied on as legal advice. Coutts is not responsible for any cost, expense, loss or liability whatsoever to this blog, including all or any reliance on this blog or use or application of this blog by you.