Custody of Knife in Public Place - next step legal guide

It is an offence to have the custody of a knife in a public place or a school. It carries a maximum penalty of 2 years’ imprisonment and/or a $2,200 fine (20 penalty units) – s.11C(1) Summary Offences Act 1988.

If you have been charged with this offence, then the prosecution must establish certain elements of the offence beyond reasonable doubt. These include:

1. You had in your custody, or in your possession, a knife – this includes carrying the knife on your person, or in your bag or in your car, so long as you have control over the knife

2. At the time you were in a public place or a school

3. You did not have a reasonable excuse for having that knife in your custody


How is a 'knife' defined?

The definition of knife includes:

  • A knife blade
  • A razor blade
  • Any other blade


What is a reasonable excuse?

The legislation lists a number of reasonable excuses for having in custody a knife in a public place or school – s.11C(2) Summary Offences Act 1988. These include:

  • The lawful pursuit of your occupation, education or training
  • The preparation or consumption of a food or drink
  • Participation in lawful entertainment, recreation or sport
  • The exhibition of knifes for retail or other trade purposes
  • An organised exhibition by knife collectors
  • The wearing of an official uniform
  • Genuine religious purposes
  • During travel to or from or incidental to any of the above activities
  • It is prescribed by regulations that you must be in custody of a knife


However, having a knife in your custody for the purposes of self-defence or the defence of another person will never be viewed by the Court as a reasonable excuse – s.11C(3) Summary Offences Act 1988.


Ideally you should speak to your solicitor before you speak to police – you need advice as to your rights and obligations so that you are more comfortable with the processes and understand what is happening. Only then can you make the best decisions.



1. Contact us. Early contact with Tankard’s Law is extremely important, so that you can start to take the right actions immediately. Obtaining advice in relation to making a statement to police or not. You need early advice.  

2. Gather material immediately. You should immediately type out your version of what occurred during the incident and provide this to your lawyer – details get lost in your memory over time. This step is crucial. You should find out who else might be a witness to what took place and get their details - do your workmates know that you peel your orange with that knife every day in the lunch room? Can you obtain a letter from the events coordinator in relation to exhibiting the knife for sale or show? Print out google maps in relation to showing your route from home to work if you are pulled over on route to work. 

3. Prepare. Your best chance in achieving the outcome that you want is to prepare your case properly. Let us help you.

If you have a question about the processes involved in arrest or charge, or attending court and what charges you face or need help understanding what the police are saying to you, contact us by phone on 02 6921 3220 or make a website enquiry.  We will get back to you promptly.

Principal Solicitor and Director, Zac Tankard, has been helping Riverina locals charged with criminal offences since 1998. There is no one better qualified to get behind you when you need it most.