Law, Penalties and Defences for Having Custody of a Knife in Public in NSW

By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.


Call it clucked up – last week, it was reported that a rooster carrying a razor blade killed a man after slashing him during a cockfight in India.

On 17 January 2020, the victim, Saripalli Venkateswara Rao, was attending an animal death match in Pragadavaram village – an area in southern India where the illegal practice of cockfighting is able to take place away from police interference.

However, one of the birds competing in the tournament unexpectedly jolted from its handler, freeing itself to roam the arena.

The rooster lashed out, and armed with the razor which it had fastened to its claws, then hacked the 55-year-old villager in the stomach who happened to be standing nearby.

Mr Rao bled to death as a result of the deep blade injury inflicted by the bird.


How Cockfighting Works

 The sport of cockfighting, which attracts high-stakes gambling, pits roosters against each other in a fight-to-the-death scenario.

Roosters are armed with long razors attached to their legs to inflict maximum injury to one another. A cockfight is won when one of the birds is killed or imposed with a fatal wound.

The high stakes encourage breeders to spend significantly on raising winning fowl, which includes fighters grooming birds in the country, feeding them diets rich in protein, and giving them steroids to bulk up their muscles so they grow into bulky birds.

Combined, this allows the birds to cause more damage in the arena.


Why Cockfights Still Take Place Despite Their Ban in India

Cockfighting was once a popular and common sport in India, however became outlawed in 1960 by the Indian Supreme Court as part of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1960).

Nevertheless, cockfights still take place in certain states in India and are considered by many rural Indians to be a key component of traditional celebrations for the annual Hindu festival of Makar Sankranti.

According to the New India Express, leading up to this year’s Makar Sankranti festival, tents and temporary sheds were constructed in mango groves by organisers of the cockfights to dodge police.

“The money we earn in organising cockfights lasts us an entire year,” one cockfighting organiser said to newspaper.

“Why would we let go of it?”

Law, Penalties and Defences for Having Custody of a Knife in Public in NSW 

While the law may not apply to roosters, it certainly does to people, and in NSW, being in custody of a knife in a public place is an offence.

In fact, in NSW, it is an offence that can leave you facing serious consequences, including the possibility of a criminal conviction.

A person found guilty of this charge can face a maximum penalty of $2,200 or a jail sentence of up to two years, or both with a criminal conviction, if the matter ends up being dealt with in court.

In NSW, the offence of being in custody of a knife in a public place is outlined in section 11C Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW).

The section prohibits a person from having the custody of a knife in a public place or school unless there is a reasonable excuse.

The onus of proving a reasonable excuse is placed on the accused person on the balance of probabilities.

A reasonable excuse could include any one of the following:

  1. If it’s carried for a lawful pursuit of the person’s job, education or training.
  2. To prepare or consume drink or food.
  3. To participate in a lawful sport, recreation or entertainment.
  4. To exhibit knives for retail or other trade purposes.
  5. An organised exhibition(s) by knife collectors.
  6. Wearing an official uniform.
  7. Genuine religious purposes.
  8. If it’s custody is reasonably necessary in all the circumstances during travel to or from or incidental to an activity referred to any of the above.
  9. It’s custody is of a kind prescribed by the regulation.

However, it is not a reasonable excuse for a person to have custody of a knife solely for the purpose of self-defence or the defence of another person.

A “reasonable excuse” may be that you needed the knife for work, or for food preparation in a public area, for entertainment purposes, or for religious purposes.

Click here for an outline on what is a “public place” or “school” under the law.

Usually, police will issue a penalty notice fine of $550 prescribed by rule 15 Summary Offences Regulation 2015 (NSW).

Being issued with a penalty notice fine will mean no requirement to appear in court unless it is contested. Payment of the fine will put the matter to rest without any criminal conviction.

The penalty notice can be contested by ‘court electing’ the penalty notice- which is explained on the back of the notice.

Once it is ‘court elected’, a court date will be provided with a requirement to then appear in court before the Local Court Magistrate. Upon attendance in court, the Magistrate will require you to enter either a plea of ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’.

The above outlined maximum penalties will then be available for the court to impose.

Police will issue a penalty notice fine for this offence, (instead of a charge  which would otherwise require a court attendance) if it appears that the offence has been committed, and if it isn’t desirable to have it heard in court, and in circumstances the accused person hasn’t previously been dealt with for a knife-related offence (section 29A Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW)).

Click here for an outline on the time-limit for when police can charge a person for this offence.


What is Considered a Knife According to the Law?

According to Section 3 of the Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW), a knife is defined as any razor blade or blade.

Consequently, under this offence, you could risk being charged if you are carrying a knife or blade in your bag or in a car which you are in control of, without reasonable excuse.

In this case, if you were to be convicted, the police must prove that you had a knife in your custody, that you were in a public place or a school at the time, and that it was without reasonable excuse.

Click here for guidance on representing yourself in court.

Have questions? Call our criminal lawyers 24/7 to arrange a free appointment to discuss this topic further.

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