16 May 2024

Push for metal detection police powers to reduce knife-related violence in Canberra

| Claire Fenwicke
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police in Canberra city

ACT Policing officers can currently only search a person for weapons if they have reasonable suspicion that the person is carrying something dangerous. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

The ACT Government will be urged today (16 May) to consider giving police officers new powers to identify people carrying knives in public places.

The Canberra Liberals will move a motion in the Legislative Assembly for the government to look into establishing something similar to ‘Jack’s Law’, which would allow police to use metal detection wands on people without reasonable suspicion in designated areas.

The law has been passed in Queensland, and the NSW Parliament has committed to a similar version.

Shadow Attorney-General Peter Cain described the law as a “sensible and measured way” to improve community safety and expand police capabilities.

“The evidence suggests that the existing scheme to frisk and search for weapons on people is informed by outdated legislation, exposing police to the risk of sustaining a needle stick or similar injuries,” he said.

“Ordinary frisk searches are also more intrusive and less human rights compliant than the proposed reforms.”

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The call comes off the back of the deadly knife attacks at Bondi Junction, in which six people were killed, and the stabbing incident at Wakeley Church in Sydney’s west.

Shadow Police Minister James Milligan said these reforms should also be considered given the ACT’s knife-related crime history, such as the fatal Civic nightclub stabbing in 2020 and the non-fatal alleged ANU stabbing incidents in 2023.

“These new laws could be deployed in designated areas at high risk of violence, such as nightclubs, public transport hubs and shopping centres,” he said.

statistical table

Number of offences reported to ACT Policing where a knife or sharp instrument was involved. Photo: ACT Policing.

According to ACT Policing data, 32 arrests have led to the person being charged for possession of a knife without a reasonable excuse between January and April of this year.

That compares to 122 apprehensions leading to charge in 2023, 129 in 2022, 102 in 2021 and 105 in 2020. (It’s important to note these numbers cover lockdown periods during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.)

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data on recorded crime (victims) from 2022 showed most homicides and related offences in the Territory did not involve a weapon of any kind (78 per cent), and there was a similar trend for assaults (89 per cent had no weapon involved).

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It is a crime in the ACT for a person to carry a knife, without a reasonable excuse, in a public place.

The Crimes Act 1900 (ACT) grants ACT Policing powers to search a person for possession of a knife or other weapon, but they must have reasonable suspicion that a person is carrying an offensive item.

The Canberra Liberals’ motion will call on the ACT Government to consider increasing police powers consistent with Jack’s Law and for a report back to the Assembly by the last sitting day in August.

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Andrew Denny9:40 am 18 May 24

We readily submit to security scanning by PRIVATE security officers at every airport in Australia – indeed we have no choice if we want to fly.
Giving law enforcement the capability to exercise these powers using their professional judgement is absolutely the right thing to do.

Who manufactures metal-detecting wands? I may want to buy some shares. Actually I could get ahead of the market by investing in hand-towed trolleys, for all the gear police are supposed to
lug around these days. Or we could buy handy carrier robot dogs — some of them come with flame-throwers, which just have to be useful in critical incidents which call for flame-throwers.

Why hasn’t anyone complained about money being ‘diverted’ from hospitals to a fairly pointless project yet?

Keyboard Warrior10:30 pm 16 May 24

Why the hell don’t police already have such “powers”?
It must be near on impossible to catch someone and arrest them these days (so they can be let out that same day with a caution).
No doubt the Greens will object as this law might offended people that might like to identify as knife carriers, perhaps the Greens will form a working group for those who have a lived experience of carrying knives.
University students with all the spare time in the world might camp out at their universities to demand greater rights for knife carriers.
What an amazing country we live in.

Carrying a pocket knife shouldn’t be a crime to begin with. Get a grip.

Keyboard Warrior12:44 am 18 May 24

Now come on Kenny, riddle me this, why the hell would you be taking your beloved pocket-knife into a shopping centre or to a crowded night club?
Unless you’re MacGyver I am all out of valid/legal reasons here sunshine.

Fair enough, knives are the new guns these days, we have to do something

People who actually want to do something nefarious will just use ceramic or high impact plastic knives.

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