Police & Public Safety ACT

Police and Public Safety Act 1998

The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Police & Public Safety) Act 1998 provides police with additional powers to ensure public order and reduce violence by amending the Summary Offences Act 1988 and the Crimes Act 1900. In addition to the new provisions, the Act also restructures and renumbers existing provisions in the Summary Offences Act.

The Act enhances police powers in regard to knife offences and street crime. The focus of policing, supported by this legislation is:

  • to reduce the number of knives and other weapons being carried or used in a public place
  • to provide police with additional power to conduct a search on a person and to confiscate any dangerous implements found upon them
  • to give reasonable directions to a person where required in public places
  • to demand a person’s name and residential address where they may provide information about serious offences.

Why we need these new laws

  • We all want the community to be safer
  • Everyone has the right to feel safe in public places
  • Young people have told us they don’t want to be intimidated or harassed in public places
  • To help reduce the number of knives being carried in public places
  • These new laws will help make public places safer for everyone

What the Act contains

The new Act contains the following amendments and additions:

Offences relating to knives and other dangerous implements

  • creates an offence of having custody of a knife in a public place or school without a reasonable excuse

Search powers

  • enable a police officer to conduct a search of a person in a public place or school if the police officer suspects on reasonable grounds that the person has custody of a dangerous implement

Confiscation powers

  • enable a police officer to confiscate a dangerous implement found in a person’s custody in a public place or school if the police officer suspects on reasonable grounds that it is unlawfully in the person’s custody

Powers to give directions

  • enable a police officer to give reasonable directions to a person in a public place if the police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the person’s behaviour or presence is obstructing another person or traffic, constitutes harassment or intimidation of another person or is likely to frighten another

Power to demand name and address

  • enable a police officer to demand a person’s name and residential address if the officer believes on reasonable grounds that the person will be able to assist in the investigation of an alleged indictable offence.

Making people aware of the laws

The general community will be made aware of the new laws and police powers through an extensive campaign consisting of radio, press and television advertisements, posters in buses and on railway stations and wallet cards. With young people most at risk from knife assaults, the advertising campaign has been designed to discourage young people from carrying knives and to make a parents aware of the repercussions of the new laws for both themselves and their children. Metropolitan, suburban, regional, ethnic and youth media will be targeted with specific media releases and information on the Police Force website.

Police will be made aware of details of the Act and their powers to enforce it through an education campaign.

What is considered a “lawful reason” for having a knife?

The legislation lists some specific circumstances in which it will be OK for a person to have a knife. This does not mean that these are the only circumstances where it is OK. These specified circumstances include where the knife is reasonably necessary for:

  • the lawful pursuit of a person’s occupation, entertainment, recreation or sport
  • the preparation or consumption of food or drink
  • exhibition of knives for retail or other trade purposes
  • organised exhibitions by knife collectors
  • the wearing of an official uniform
  • for genuine religious purposes
  • or where custody of the knife is reasonably necessary during travel to or from any of the listed activities.
  • Examples of sport where people might require knives include fishing, yachting or hunting, while occupations would include tradespeople, farmers and knife exhibitors. This makes it quite clear that it will be OK to take a knife out to go fishing or to a picnic so long as that is what it is genuinely intended for. The new law states that it is not a reasonable excuse for a person to have a knife in a public place solely for the purpose of self defence or the defence of another person.
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