Consultation paper on weapons related offences: Sentencing Adult Offenders

The Sentencing Council released a consultation paper in September 2023 seeking further submissions on key issues identified in preliminary research and analysis.  The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) was grateful for the opportunity to make a submission in response to this consultation paper.

Our submission focussed on offences involving custody of knives and questions raised in relation to items 5 and 6 of the Terms of Reference, namely:

  • consider whether offences for which penalty notices are available remain appropriate;
  • consider whether the maximum penalties for the offences are appropriate with reference to other jurisdictions.

The consultation paper reveals that NSW’s maximum penalties very significantly exceed those of other Australian jurisdictions.[1] Given this, NSWCCL submits that in order for the Council to consider recommending any increase to the maximum penalty there would need to be evidence of a very significant increase in offending.  No such evidence has been provided to the Council.  In our submission, the current maximum penalty is more than adequate.

NSWCCL holds the concern, as noted in the consultation paper, that a broad range of weapons is captured by a single maximum penalty.[2]  NSWCCL does consider that maximum penalties should depend on the type of prohibited weapon possessed.  At present, the same maximum penalty exists for possession or use of a missile launcher as it does for a laser pointer. 

NSWCCL submits that there is a certain contradiction in the Government doubling the maximum sentence for custody of knife offences and making them indictable but at the same time maintaining the ability to issue penalty notices for the offence. It could be seen to be sending a mixed message about the seriousness of the offence.  It could also indicate that there is some recognition of the excessive breadth of behaviour caught within the offence.

NSWCCL submits that penalty notices should be available for second or subsequent custody of knife offences given the broad impact this law has as discussed above. NSWCCL notes, however, that penalty notices have their own drawbacks, particularly on vulnerable groups as noted in the consultation paper.[3]

If the purpose of the law is to combat ‘knife culture’ then a restriction preventing second or subsequent penalty notices if previous knife offences included violent knife offences would seem more in accordance with this aim.

Read our submission here.


[1] Page 21 of the consultation paper.

[2] Pages 26-27 of the consultation paper.

[3] [6.55] - [6.57] of the consultation paper.