WA follows ‘Jack’s Law’ with new police powers to hit knife violence

Duncan EvansNCA NewsWire
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Camera IconNot Supplied Credit: Supplied

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.

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

Camera IconWA Premier Roger Cook announced tough new laws to crack down on knife crime on Wednesday. NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

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.

The new WA laws follow similar measures in Queensland, which give the police the power to ‘wand’, or search for knives and edged weapons in designated public spaces. Queensland Police
Camera IconThe new WA laws follow similar measures in Queensland, which give the police the power to ‘wand’, or search for knives and edged weapons in designated public spaces. Queensland Police Credit: Supplied

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.”

Opposition Leader Shane Love said he would back measures that reduced violent crime, but would wait for the “full detail” of the legislation before coming to a position.

“The Opposition has raised concerns about violent knife crime in schools and across the wider community,” he said.

“Action is needed, but the Cook Labor Government has a damning track record of rushing poorly drafted legislation through parliament without making use of important mechanisms such as a Legislation Committee.

“Because of this, the government has had to amend or repeal their own laws over 20 times since 2021.

“This Bill is one of many high-priority issues the government must address in the remaining 11 sitting weeks of the parliament.”

The WA Liberals will offer their “in principle” support for the laws.

“While we are yet to receive a briefing, or see the legislation, this sounds nearly identical to the legislation introduced by the previous Liberal government in 2009 and we will provide our in-principal support,” WA Liberal Leader Libby Mettam said.

“This sort of legislation was common sense in 2009 and it is common sense now.”

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.

Camera IconQueensland parents Belinda Beasley and Brett Beasley lost their son Jack to knife violence. NCA NewsWIRE / John Gass Credit: News Corp Australia

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.”

Originally published as WA follows ‘Jack’s Law’ with new police powers to hit knife violence

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