Is it legal to carry a knife?

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There appears to be some confusion about whether a person is allowed to carry a knife in a public place in NSW.

Various online forums discuss the issue and reach different conclusions about the circumstances in which a person is legally permitted to carry a knife.

The NSW offence of carrying a knife in a public place

Under section 93IB of the Crimes Act 1900  it is an offence to be in custody of a knife in a public place or a school. This offence carries a maximum penalty of  a fine of $4,400, imprisonment for 4 years, or both.

A further offence is outlined under section 93IC of the Act which applies if a person uses or carries a knife that is visible, if the use or carrying occurs:

  • In the presence of a person; and
  • In a public place or a school; and
  • In a way that is likely to cause a reasonable person to reasonably fear for the person’s safety.

This offence carries a maximum penalty up to $11,000, imprisonment for 4 years, or both.

A ‘knife’ is includes a knife blade and a razor blade.

A ‘public place’ includes any place or part of premises that is open to the public, or is used by the public whether or not on payment of money or other consideration, whether or not the place or part is ordinarily so open or used and whether or not the public to whom it is open consists only of a limited class of persons.

What is a ‘reasonable excuse’?

The main confusion surrounds the definition of ‘reasonable excuse’.

A statutory defence (which is an offence relating specifically to the offence) exists for both offences if  the accused person establishes ‘on the balance of probabilities’ (in other words, more likely than not) that he or she had a reasonable excuse for carrying the knife.

Under the Act, a reasonable excuse is where it was necessary to carry or use the knife for:

  •  The lawful pursuit of the person’s occupation, education or training, or
  • The preparation or consumption of food or drink, or
  • Participation in a lawful entertainment, recreation or sport, or
  • The exhibition of knives for retail or other trade purposes, or
  • An organised exhibition by knife collectors, or
  • The wearing of an official uniform, or
  • Genuine religious purposes, or
  • During travel to or from or incidental to any of these activities.

What is not a ‘reasonable excuse’?

Carrying a knife for the purposes of self-defence or defence of another is not a reasonable excuse.

How can I prove ‘reasonable excuse’?

If you are found in possession of a knife, and you have a reasonable excuse, it may be a good idea to state the excuse to police as this could prevent you from being charged or – if you are charged – be used to have the case dropped shortly afterwards or thrown out of court at a later date.

If police charge you despite clear evidence of a reasonable excuse, or they later refuse to drop the charge, they may be ordered to pay your legal costs after the case is dismissed in court.

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Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist with 25 years of experience as a Criminal Defence Lawyer. He is the Principal of Sydney Criminal Lawyers®.

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