Is it legal to carry a knife?

by Ugur Nedim

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.

Section 11C of the Summary Offences Act imposes a maximum penalty of 2 year imprisonment and/or a fine of $2,200 upon anyone who, without ‘reasonable excuse’, has a knife in their possession in a public place or school.

The law also says that the person in possession is required to prove that ‘reasonable excuse’ on the balance of probabilities.

What is a ‘reasonable excuse’?

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

The section states that a reasonable excuse includes:

(i) the lawful pursuit of the person’s occupation, education or training,

(ii) the preparation or consumption of food or drink,

(iii) participation in a lawful entertainment, recreation or sport,

(iv) the exhibition of knives for retail or other trade purposes,

(v) an organised exhibition by knife collectors,

(vi) the wearing of an official uniform,

(vii) genuine religious purposes, or

travelling to or from any of the above activities.

The definition is not ‘exhaustive’ which means that other activities may also constitute a ‘reasonable excuse’. However, the person in possession would be required to prove that the possession was ‘reasonable’.

What is not a ‘reasonable excuse’?

It is not a reasonable excuse to have a knife solely for the purpose of self defence or the defence of another person.

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 is an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist with over 20 years of experience as a criminal defence lawyer. He is the Principal of Sydney Criminal Lawyers®.

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