8 May 2024

NSW Police to use wands to tackle knives under tough new laws

| Chris Roe
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NSW is cracking down on knife crime with new laws that allow police to scan members of the public.

NSW is cracking down on knife crime with new laws that allow police to scan members of the public. Photo: sturti.

In the wake of two devastating, high-profile knife attacks in Sydney last month, the NSW Government will introduce tough new laws to target possession of knives, particularly among young people.

Following the model set by “Jack’s Law” in Queensland, NSW Police will have the power to “wand” or “scan” people for knives without a warrant in designated areas, including transport hubs, shopping centres and other crowded places.

“In recent weeks and months, we have all borne witness to the devastating outcomes of knife-related violence,” said Premier Chris Minns.

“I know that many in our community have followed the devastating media coverage and heard the stories of victims and families – tragically there have been so many recent examples.

“We are announcing reform including legislation modelled on new powers for police to search and detect knives in public spaces, based on Queensland’s Jack’s Law, and a commonsense increase to the age limit for purchasing knives from 16 to 18 to make it harder for children to get access to these deadly weapons.”

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Along with the increased age limit, there will be harsher penalties for retailers who sell to young people and a crackdown on illegal sales, although the new laws include provisions for exemptions for retailers selling to young people who need a knife for their work or study.

“These changes increase police powers, toughen penalties and send a clear signal that it is not OK to carry a knife,” Attorney General Michael Daley said.

“There are too many young people who think it is OK to put a knife into their pocket to carry out their daily business.

“The worrying thing is that, if they are open to carrying it, then they are probably open to using it. We want people to stop carrying knives, to leave them at home and to stop using them.”

Jack’s Law was introduced in Queensland in 2019 after 17-year-old Jack Beasley was stabbed to death in a random attack.

In the first year of Jack’s Law, more than 51,000 individuals were scanned, 500 weapons were confiscated, and 1369 arrests were made.

“We’ll be looking at how these strategies work in a NSW context. Strategies that we know are making a difference in Queensland,” Minister for the Police and Counter-terrorism Yasmin Catley said.

“These reforms will give police improved tools to quickly detect concealed knives and take action before a potential perpetrator has the chance to use them.”

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The new powers will be applied in circumstances where knife crime has occurred within the past six months and the authority will last for 12 hours, with an option to extend as required.

Currently in NSW, police are only permitted to search a person who they believe is likely to be carrying a weapon.

The Premier said he hoped the new measures would change “the culture where a young person decides not to take a knife or a stabbing implement with them because the penalties associated with carrying these knives are massive”.

Under the Crimes Act in NSW, exemptions can be made for those with a “reasonable excuse” to carry or use a knife, including for work, education or training or for genuine religious purposes.

The details of the new ‘wanding’ laws are yet to be ­finalised.

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