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Published: 22 November 2022


A new Bill has introduced into the Lower House of the NSW Parliament that aims to sharpen the knife custody laws. Enhancing the existing knife laws with more onerous punishments is proposed as the solution to the recent high profile knife attacks across Sydney.


A new Bill has introduced into the Lower House of the NSW Parliament that aims to sharpen the knife custody laws. Enhancing the existing knife laws with more onerous punishments is proposed as the solution to the recent high profile knife attacks across Sydney.

We dive into the changes and consider whether more severe penalties would actually reduce or deter people from carrying knives, or whether it will have the opposite effect.


The introduction of this law would make it seem that knife crime is on the rise. However, this is not the case. The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research have released data that tracks a twenty year period of knife related crime. The reporting period is June 2002 to June 2022 and shows dramatic downward trend:

  1. Non-domestic assaults with a knife: 1482 decreased to 524.
  2. Domestic assaults with a knife: 1239 decreased to 466.
  3. Robberies with a knife: 2329 decreased to 486.

The Member of Parliament introducing the Bill conceded that these numbers don’t support tougher penalties. However, they are pushing on as he considers knife offences to be ‘stubbornly high’. This law is mainly supported by the recent highly publicised stories of knife attacks across NSW. These included the alleged stabbing murder at this year’s Sydney Royal Easter Show and the alleged stabbing of a 16 year old girl in Orange this year.

You can read the Second Reading Speech here and access the statistics here.


The only way you are able to carry a knife in public or at school is by having a reasonable excuse. Helpfully, these excuses are detailed in the law and include:

  1. Lawful pursuit of work, education or training
  2. Preparation or consumption of food or drink
  3. Lawful entertainment, recreation or sport
  4. Exhibiting knives for retail or other trade purposes
  5. Organised exhibition by knife collectors
  6. Wearing of an official uniform
  7. Genuine religious purposes

However, you cannot be carrying a knife just for self-defence or defence of another person.


 Having custody of a knife in public or at school is currently a crime in NSW, however this new law is remarkable due to the heavy penalties proposed:

  1. Maximum fine of $2,200 increased to $4,400
  2. Maximum imprisonment of 2 years increased to 4 years

The classification of the custody of knife offence will change from a ‘summary’ offence to an ‘indictable’ offence. This means there is an increase in the seriousness of the offence, and changes how the offence can be dealt with in Court.

As a summary offence, there was a six-month time limit to be charged. This will be removed as an indictable offence.

The proposed change will allow either the prosecution or the accused to decide whether this offence will remain in the Local Court or be elected to the District Court. If heard in the District Court, the accused has the right to a jury trial but also faces the possibility of the maximum imprisonment of 4 years. This change in classification will have massive implications for persons found to be carrying knives without a reasonable excuse, with the likelihood of a criminal conviction increasing.


The new law mandates that if you have been convicted of a ‘knife related offence’ before, then the judicial officer must take that into account as an aggravating factor in your current sentencing proceedings. This reduces the ability of Magistrates and Judges to exercise judicial discretion, which may not result in individualised justice being seen to be done.


In introducing the Bill, NSW Labor believe that this law will provide a ‘stronger message, stronger deterrents and stronger sentences’ and will discourage disadvantaged youths from grabbing a blade on the way out the door.

The idea that more time spent in prison will lead to a fall in crime is strongly contested. Recent research suggests that the ‘deterrent effect’ of prisons is actually ‘rather limited’. In fact, sentencing more individuals to prison sentences will lead to a ‘normalisation’ effect, which allows prison to lose its deterrent effect. As more people are incarcerated, it may encourage the idea that prison time is a ‘rite of passage’ in certain communities.

You can read the research here:

  1. Do harsher punishments deter crime?
  2. Crime, Deterrence and punishment revisited.

Time will tell whether young people will stop and consider the increased penalties before deciding to carry a knife in public.

At Morrisons we are specialist criminal and traffic lawyers based in Wollongong and the Southern Highlands. If you require advice or representation, you can book an appointment with one of our expert criminal lawyers.

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We are the only private law firm in the Illawarra, Southern Highlands and South Coast regions with two lawyers recognised as Accredited Specialists in Criminal Law by the NSW Law Society.