‘Wanding’ knife laws green light boosts police powers

Alex Mitchell |

NSW police officers will be able to use a hand-held metal detector without warrants in some areas.
NSW police officers will be able to use a hand-held metal detector without warrants in some areas.

NSW Police will have beefed-up powers to tackle knife crime after controversial “wanding” laws passed the state parliament.

After a spate of high-profile stabbings in Sydney  -including the Bondi Junction shopping centre attack in April where six people were killed with a knife – police will now be able to use a hand-held metal detector without warrants in certain locations.

These include shopping precincts, sporting venues and public transport stations.

The bill passed the NSW parliament on Thursday evening, despite the opposition voting against it, after arguing that it did not give police enough power.

Senior police can make a declaration allowing officers to scan people for 12 hours in an area where knife or weapons-related violence has taken place in the past 12 months.

Critics, including civil liberties groups, say the laws will disproportionately impact vulnerable communities and subject them to surveillance or harassment.

But NSW Premier Chris Minns said the laws will make the state safer.

“Our state is still shaken following the devastating spate of knife-related violence,” he said.

“These are common-sense changes that strike a careful balance between preserving the rights of individuals and ensuring communities stay safe.”

The laws are modelled on those in Queensland named after teenager Jack Beasley, who was stabbed to death in 2019 on the Gold Coast.

Queensland Police have seized more than 500 weapons in about a year since those laws were introduced.

In NSW, the maximum penalty for selling a knife to a child aged less than 16 has been boosted to a $11,000 fine, 12 months of jail time, or both.

A new offence also bans the sale of a knife to a child aged 16 or 17 without a reasonable excuse.

Attorney-General Michael Daley said wanding powers would deter people from carrying knives, after the recent spate of knife attacks.

“These shocking incidents have laid bare how devastating knife crime can be and how the lives of innocent people can be snatched away in an instant,” he said.

“We want to ensure that people in the community feel safe and are safe … rightly, they expect the government to do more to achieve that and this will help to keep our streets safer.”

But the coalition said making police declare an area for wanding before conducting searches could thwart the overall purpose of the laws.

The designated areas in the laws do not include public places such as schools, MPs argued.

“The laws put forward simply do not do enough to protect our communities … police should be given the ability to perform searches anytime and anywhere,” Nationals MP Paul Toole said.

“Our communities deserve to feel safe, and the Labor government needs to take action to prevent as many violent knife crimes from occurring as possible.”