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New Knife Laws : Wand Scanning

This brief article discusses soon to be introduced new knife laws allowing police to use a device to scan individuals for knives or other weapons. Under these laws, members of the NSW police will have the power to randomly scan individuals with a ‘wand’ to detect any metal items, including knives.

What Does The Bill Include?

On Thursday 6 June 2024, the NSW Parliament passed the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) and Other Legislation Amendment (Knife Crime) Bill 2024. This bill provides NSW Police with additional powers to tackle knife related crime.  This includes:

  • A 2 year trial allowing police officers to scan individuals with a metal detector, otherwise known as a wand, who may be carrying knives or other weapons.  This will occur in designated areas.
  • Make it an offence for a person, to sell a knife to anyone under the age of 18 years.  This excludes those that require a knife for work or study.  The previous age limit was 16 years.

As of June 10th 2024, the Bill which has been passed by parliament, is awaiting assention to become formalised into an Act and thereby become effective law in NSW.  This process normally takes a few weeks.

New Knife Laws to allow Wand Searches by NSW Police

The changes amend the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 and will allow NSW police in ‘designated areas’ to ‘wand’ individuals to search for metal objects, particularly knives.  The wand is essentially a metal detector that is scanned over an individual, alerting the police to any metal objects that an individual may be carrying.  Section 45K will allow police officers to conduct these scans without a warrant or any level of reasonable suspicion that someone is carrying a knife or other weapon.

Wand Searches to Occur only in Designated Areas

Searches using the wand can only be conducted in designated areas, such as transport hubs, shopping centres, sporting venues, pubs and clubs.  Section 45G sets out the circumstances in which a senior police officer may declare a place to be a designated area. A senior police officer may make a declaration only if:

  • Certain events involving violence or knife offences have happened at the place in the previous 12 months, and
  • The senior police officer considers the use of hand-held scanners likely to be an effective means of detection or deterrence, and
  • The senior police officer has considered the impact of the use of hand-held scanners on lawful activity in the area and whether any past use of hand-held scanners in the area has been effective.

The bill proposes that a declaration can only be in place for 12 hours, and to require NSW police to publish declarations of designated areas on the NSW police force website as soon as practicable after the declaration is made. 

The bill also allows police officers to board a public transport vehicle and scan individuals, as long as the vehicle has not travelled more than two stops away from the public transport station.

Why were Wand Searches Introduced? 

The new bill which allows wand searches was introduced in an attempt to deter the increasing levels of knife related crime in the community.  The new laws are based on and are similar to ‘Jacks Law’ which was passed in Queensland in 2023.  Queensland introduced this law after two high profile knife related incidents in 2019 and 2020.  More than 500 weapons were seized during the first year of Queensland’s new search laws. 

What If I Refuse to be Scanned?

Proposed section 45N states that it is an offence for a person, without reasonable excuse, to fail or refuse to comply with an order by a police officer to be subject to a scan.  The penalty for refusing to submit to being scanned is a maximum fine of $5,500.00.

Safeguards controlling the use of Scanning

Section 45O outlines certain safeguards a police officer must comply with if carrying out a scan. These include the following:

  • The police officer must exercise the power in the least invasive way practicable. 
  • If reasonably practicable, the police officer must be of the same sex as the person. 
  • The police officer may detain the person for as long as is reasonably necessary to exercise the power. 
  • Before exercising the power, the police officer must give the person evidence that the police officer is a police officer unless in uniform, the name and place of duty of the police officer and the reason for the exercise of the power. 
  • The police officer must give a warning to the person that the person is required by law to comply with the direction.

Additional Legislation Amendments to the Bill

The newly introduced bill amends the Summary Offences Act 1988 to double the maximum penalty for selling a knife to a child under the age of 16 and introduces a custodial penalty. The new maximum penalty for this offence is now $11,000.00 fine and/or 12 months imprisonment. 

The change also introduces section 11F into the Summary Offences Act 1988 making it an offence for a person to sell a knife to a child of 16 or 17 years, without a reasonable excuse.  A reasonable excuse is defined as the seller believing that the individual is 18 years or that they are satisfied that the child requires the knife for the lawful pursuit of education or training.

The amendments introduced are scheduled to be reviewed after two years, to assess their effectiveness in decreasing knife and other violent weapon related crime.

Why BSM Lawyers?

Our highly experienced criminal team understand that being charged with a knife offence is understandably stressful. Our lawyers can assist you with your charge.  We will carefully listen to you, liaise with the police and prosecution and work out the best defence strategy for you.  Our experienced criminal lawyers have extensive experience with weapons charges, including those resulting from the new knife laws. Our lawyers are up to date with the most recent changes in all aspects of criminal law.  We are proud of the excellent results that we achieve for our clients.  Our expert criminal defence team are able to run most court matters without the added expense of a barrister. However, for serious criminal matters we have a panel of expert barristers who we frequently engage. 

Brander Smith McKnight is conveniently located in Sutherland, Parramatta, Sydney CBD and Wollongong.

Call us to arrange a free 20 minute no obligation consultation that includes case evaluation and cost estimate.

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