WA enacts new laws in knife crime crackdown

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Western Australian will introduce tough new laws to crack down on knife violence, giving the police “anywhere, anytime” powers to conduct searches for weapons.

The laws would give officers the power to “wand”, or use handheld metal detectors to scan people in a designated Knife Wanding Area such as entertainment zones, bus stops, shopping centres, train stations and during sporting or community events.

WA Premier Roger Cook, speaking on Wednesday morning, said the new powers were designed to crack down on the “confronting” examples of high-profile knife violence that have hit the country in recent months, including Sydney’s Bondi massacre.

“Across the nation, we have seen recent examples of high profile crimes that have all involved a common yet concerning thing, they have all involved knives,” he said.

“The images have been confronting, and that is why my government is doing something about it.”

He said the “proactive laws” would send a “serious message” to anyone considering carrying a knife in public.

“My government is serious about tackling the threat of knife crime to better protect Western Australians,” he said.

“The illegal possession of knives won’t be tolerated and the chances of you getting caught are increasing.”

Alongside wanding powers, the laws ramp up penalties for anyone caught selling an edged weapon to a person under the age of 18, with a $36,000 fine or three years in prison now on the books.

Stricter penalties for prohibited weapons such as ballistic knives and knuckle knives will also be introduced, increasing from three years’ imprisonment and $36,000 fine to five years’ in jail and a $60,000 fine.

Any person who refuses to undergo a wanding scan, or refuses to produce the object when requested, will commit an offence, the new laws state.

The offence holds a penalty of up to 12 months jail or fine of up to $12,000.

Mr Cook said Western Australians doing the right thing had “nothing to worry about” and would not be targeted.

“People who have a legitimate legal reason to carry knives, or other blades, for example as part of their work, will not be impacted,” he said.

“But I make absolutely no apology for targeting those thugs who think it is acceptable to go into a public place with a knife.

“The community doesn’t accept it and I don’t accept it and that is why my government is taking this tough action.

“The toughest anywhere in Australia.”

WA Police Minister Paul Papalia said the new powers would give officers “another tool on their belt” to remove dangerous weapons from the streets.

“Knife Wanding Areas and the associated powers will ensure police officers are far better equipped to detect, deter and reduce the illegal use of knives in Western Australia,” he said.

“WA Police can scan you anywhere, anytime a KWA is enabled.”

The WA laws were inspired by Queensland’s Jack’s Law measures, which were legislated after 17-year-old Jack Beasley lost his life in a brutal stabbing attack on the Gold Coast in 2019.

Jack’s Law gives the police wanding search powers and from March to December 2023, Queensland Police said they had seized some 400 weapons including kitchen and butcher’s knives, tomahawks, hammers, hunting knives, knuckle dusters and screwdrivers.

“I want to thank Jack Beasley’s parents, Brett and Belinda, who have passionately advocated for and assisted in the development of this legislation in memory of their son,” Mr Papalia said.

“Western Australia will be a safer place because of their determination to improve safety in Jack’s name.”

NSW is also considering similar measures to roll back the stabbing violence that has marred the state.

In April, the Beasleys met with NSW Police Minister Yasmin Catley to discuss how the laws had been implemented in Queensland.

Ms Catley said “everything” was “on the table” after meeting with the Beasleys.

“It was a very interesting, a very fruitful conversation,” she said.

“They are lovely people under pretty adverse circumstances, very generous to come down here … to explain to the NSW government exactly what Jack’s Law is, why it was implemented and how it works.”

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