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Jack's Law of Queensland, Australia: Enactment, Importance and Drawbacks

In 2019, 17-year-old Jack Beasley was fatally stabbed while he was having fun with friends at a Surfers Paradise convenience store. The law called 'Jack's Law' has only recently (in March 2023) been introduced to honour his memory, granting police officers the power to detect people carrying knives in public places to tackle knife-related crime in Queensland, Australia. The governor of the state in addition pledged that the law will start operation on the day, aligning with what would have been Jack's 21st birthday.

This Act which is officially known as the Police Powers and Responsibilities (Jack's Law) Amendment Act 2023 was inspired by the positive outcomes from a pilot program of metal detectors in Safe Night Precincts in Gold Coast that ran from May 2021 to November 2022. During this period the authorities seized 241 guns and charged 647 individuals with various offences which included carrying big knives like machetes, screwdrivers, flick knives, knuckledusters, tasers and even a fake gun.

According to Jack's Law, police officers are allowed to use Portable Scanners/Wands in some Safe Night Precincts, public transportation stations, and vehicles such as trains, trams, buses and ferries, as well as transportation hubs. Areas mostly often impacted by the legislation are Airlie Beach, Brisbane, Bundaberg, Cairns, Fortitude Valley, Gladstone, Inner West Brisbane, Ipswich, Mackay, Rockhampton, Sunshine Coast, Toowoomba, and Townsville.

Due to this new enactment, the police officers have received an exclusive right to stop people at random and use portable scanners/wands for inspections without the need of warrants. Under certain circumstances they can also detain people to be able to exercise these forces. It is also worth noting that they do not have the power to go beyond the limits of their designated powers without a warrant.

Possession of a knife in any public place or school without a 'reasonable excuse' is generally considered illegal under section 51 of the Weapons Act 1990. In other words, there are certain reasons that can be considered valid for carrying knives for instance engaging in lawful activities, duties or employment, participating in lawful entertainment or recreation, using the knife for sport, exhibiting it lawfully and another lawful purpose.

There are different situations where having a knife is allowed including farmers who have them when working on primary production, scouts who wear them as part of their uniform and pipe band performers make use of them as accessories. Therefore, fishermen can carry knives while fishing and collectors may present their collections in public programmes like carnivals. It is also legal to take along a knife when going to eat out at hotels, restaurants or other food events like picnics; also, you can walk around with a penknife or Swiss army knife all-purpose type tool. Some religious uses such as the Sikh Kirpan is permitted subject to exceptions established in Kamaljit Kaur Athwal v. State of Queensland [2022] QSC 209.

It is essential to keep in mind that keeping a knife for self-defence is unlawful in Australia. Those discovered in infraction of this legislation might encounter penalties approximately $5,570.00 as well as/ or one year of jail time. Additionally, having various other things identified as 'restricted items' under section 67 of the Act might cause a penalty of $1,437.50. "

Drawbacks of Jack's Law:
As a result of the inescapable murder of Jack Beasley, Jack's Law was passed whose purpose was to decrease knife crimes and ensure people's security in Queensland, Australia. On the other hand, there are some worries and challenges which arise from this regulation. The first issue is the wide powers of discretion granted to police officers which allow them to carry out random searches and stops without warrants.

This could infringe civil rights, and create cases of profiling or discrimination. Critics fear that the unchecked power will be abused, allowing some communities or individuals to be targeted unfairly and erode the sense of trust for law enforcement.

Also, it is unclear what constitutes a 'reasonable excuse' for carrying a knife in public and this creates legal uncertainties and the potential for inconsistent enforcement. This lack of clarity may lead to people being unfairly punished or discriminated against, which presents problems for the protection of their rights.

Fleet maintenance workers who are Black or minority ethnic are probably the most vulnerable given the potential for racial bias in the implementation of Jack's Law. The aim of Jack's Law is to cover knife-related offences but its downfalls points to the need to pay much attention to the proper implementation for fairness and effectiveness.
 Written By: Md.Imran Wahab, IPS, IGP, Provisioning, West Bengal
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 9836576565

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