New knife laws in NSW

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After a spate of high-profile stabbings, the NSW government passed new knife laws, giving police new ‘wanding' powers.
Australia Criminal Law
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The NSW government has passed new knife laws giving police unprecedented powers to use 'wanding' after a spate of high-profile stabbings.

Police will now be able to use a hand-held metal detector without warrants in certain locations.

The new legislation is not without criticism, with the opposition claiming it does not give police enough power, while civil liberties groups suggest that they provide police too much power.

What are the NSW New Knife Laws?

The new knife laws in NSW are that the maximum penalty for selling a knife to a child aged under 16 is now a $11,000 fine and/or 12 months of gaol. A new offence also bans the sale of a knife to a child aged 16 or 17 without a reasonable excuse. The maximum penalties for using, carrying or having custody of a knife have also increased to 4 years imprisonment.

The legislation will also make it illegal to sell knives to a child under the age of 18, with exemptions for retailers selling to young people who need a knife for their work or study, as well as increasing penalties for people selling knives to young people under the age of 18.

As part of the overhaul of knife laws, the NSW Sentencing Council will conduct a review into sentencing for firearms, knives, and other weapons offences.

Further, NSW Police operations such as "Operation Foil" will continue. These are ongoing, targeted operations against knife crime and anti-social behaviour. It was last run in April with 51 knives/weapons seized and 145 people charged with weapon-related offences. In the last year alone almost 4000 knives were seized in public places.

Custody of Knife in Public Place or School

It is a criminal offence to have custody of a knife in a public place or school which carries a maximum penalty of 40 penalty units or imprisonment for 4 years, or both. This is set out in Section 93IB of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

The definition is a knife includes a blade, but does not include a knife of a class prescribed by the regulations.

A public place is defined as a place (whether or not covered by water), or part of premises, that is open to the public, or is used by the public whether or not on payment of money or other consideration, whether or not the place or part is ordinarily so open or used and whether or not the public to whom it is open consists only of a limited class of persons, but does not include a school.

Using or Carrying Knife in a Public Place or School

It is a criminal offence to use or carry a knife visibly in a public place or school ina away that is likely to cause a reasonable person to reasonably fear for the person's safety. The maximum penalty is 100 penalty units or imprisonment for 4 years, or both. This is set out in Section 93IC of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).


It is a defence to use, carry or have custody of a knife in a public place or school if you have a reasonable excuse under Section 93IB(2) of the Crimes Act 1900.

A reasonable excuse includes having a knife in the person's custody:

1. because it is reasonably necessary for:

  • the lawful pursuit of the person's occupation, education or training, or
  • the preparation or consumption of food or drink, or
  • participation in a lawful entertainment, recreation or sport, or
  • the exhibition of knives for retail or other trade purposes, or
  • an organised exhibition by knife collectors, or
  • the wearing of an official uniform, or
  • genuine religious purposes, or

2. because it is reasonably necessary during travel to or from or incidental to an activity referred to above; or

3. in circumstances prescribed by the regulations.

Importantly, the legislation makes clear that it is not a reasonable excuse to have a knife for self-defence or for the defence of another person.

Wanding Knife Laws NSW

New wanding laws will allow NSW police to use handheld electronic metal-detecting wands to stop and scan people without a warrant in designated areas.

Under the new legislation, a senior police officer of the rank of Assistant Commissioner or above can turn on wanding powers to be used in designated areas including:

  • public transport station (including bus, train and tram stations) and surrounds;
  • public transport vehicles within two scheduled stops of a designated public transport station;
  • shopping precincts;
  • certain sporting venues;
  • other public places, designated by regulation, including special events and places that are part of the night-time economy.

The authority will last for 12 hours, with an option to extend as required.

Police can "wand" any person in a designated area and request that person produce any detected metal object. Failure to comply may result in a maximum penalty of a $5500 fine.

Wanding powers can be used in areas where there have been issues related to knife crime or knife possession offences where one of the following have occurred in the last 12 months:

  • at least 1 offence committed by a person armed with a knife or weapon;
  • at least 1 serious indictable offence involving violence;
  • more than 1 offence of knife possession or possess prohibited weapon.

Criticism of New Knife Laws

Civil liberties groups have been at the forefront of criticising the new knife laws, suggesting they will disproportionately impact vulnerable communities such as indigenous Australians and subject them to surveillance or harassment. This is particularly because the NSW laws are more stringent than Queensland's laws which they were modelled on.

The coalition also levelled criticism at the laws by stating that making police declare an area for wanding before conducting searches could thwart the overall purpose of the laws.

Nationals MP Paul Toole said, "The laws put forward simply do not do enough to protect our communities ... police should be given the ability to perform searches anytime and anywhere...Our communities deserve to feel safe, and the Labor government needs to take action to prevent as many violent knife crimes from occurring as possible."

Support for New Knife Laws NSW

NSW Premier Chris Minns said in a media release, "My hope is that these commonsense reforms stop people from taking a knife into the community and prevent some of the devastating outcomes of knife-related violence we have seen in recent months."

Attorney-General Michael Daley said the wanding powers would deter people from carrying knives, after the recent spate of knife attacks.

"These shocking incidents have laid bare how devastating knife crime can be and how the lives of innocent people can be snatched away in an instant...We want to ensure that people in the community feel safe and are safe ... rightly, they expect the government to do more to achieve that and this will help to keep our streets safer."

What is 'Jack's Law'?

'Jack's Law' is a Queensland law which allows police to "wand" or "scan" people for knives without a warrant in designated areas.

It came into effect after teenager Jack Beasley was stabbed to death in 2019 on the Gold Coast.

Queensland Police have seized more than 500 weapons in about a year since 'Jack's Law' was introduced.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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