In April 2024 , Sydney experienced a series of unrated stabbing incidents, prompting discussion about knife-related crime in Australia. The incidents resulted in seven fatalities and several injuries, leaving the city in shock.

The first attack occurred at a busy shopping centre in Bondi Junction, where Joel Cauchi, a 40-year-old Queensland man, indiscriminately stabbed shoppers, resulting in six deaths before he was shot dead by a police officer. Two days later, another stabbing incident took place at a church in Wakeley, leaving Assyrian Orthodox preacher, Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel, injured.

Additionally, three other stabbing incidents occurred across Sydney during the same period, receiving less media attention but highlighting the prevalence of knife crime in the region.  

While these incidents have raised concerns about public safety, experts emphasise that violent knife crime has been on a downward trend for decades. However, they acknowledge an increase in the carrying and use of knives among certain groups, particularly young people. 

The current laws in place

11C Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW) Custody of Knife in public place or school 

This section of the legislation prohibits a person from having a knife in their custody in a public place or school without a reasonable excuse. 

At the moment, the maximum penalty for this offence is 20 penalty units or imprisonment for 2 years. 

What does a reasonable excuse include? 

  • Lawful pursuit of occupation
  • Education or training 
  • Preparing or consuming food or drink 
  • Participating in a lawful entertainment 
  • Recreation or sport 
  • Exhibiting knives for retail or other trade purposes 
  • Wearing an official uniform 
  • Genuine religious purposes 

Statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and New South Wales’ Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research show relatively steady rates of knife-related crimes over the past decade. However, young people are disproportionately represented in these statistics, with higher rates of involvement in violent knife crimes, such as robbery. 

In response to calls for action, the New South Wales government has undertaken reviews of existing legislation and is considering potential reforms to combat knife-related crime. This includes discussions about implementing “wanding” laws to allow police officers to conduct searches in designated areas. 

While efforts to address knife crime are underway, challenges remain, including the widespread availability of knives and the difficulty of policing their possession. Despite these challenges, stakeholders are committed to finding effective solutions to ensure public safety and reduce the incidence of knife-related violence in Sydney and across Australia. 

Our team specialise in criminal law. Our role is to sit down with you and work out the strategy that will get you the best possible result. If you have any questions about this article or any other topic of law, please call our team of experts on 1300 066 669.