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Media Release: Wanding won’t work – new WA search laws a kneejerk move without evidence

Justice Reform Initiative Media Release, 23 May 2024

The WA Government’s move to introduce new stop and search laws allowing anyone to be scanned for knives is unlikely to deter people carrying knives, with no firm evidence base to suggest random scans are effective in preventing crime.  

The Justice Reform Initiative today warned that the proposed “anywhere, anytime” knife scan laws could have negative consequences, pulling more people into the criminal justice system, without making any meaningful difference to community safety.

The Justice Reform Initiative’s WA campaign and advocacy coordinator Kimberley Wilde said there was no evidence to show that knife wanding deterred people from carrying knives.

“While politicians should of course respond to tragic events in the community, we need to ensure that policies to control crime and improve community safety are based on evidence, not emotion,” she said.

“We know that the threat of harsher penalties and ‘tough on crime’ approaches do not reduce the likelihood of crime being committed. Instead, we need to do the hard work and address the drivers of crime which are usually tied to deeper issues relating to disadvantage, mental health, alcohol and other drug use and disengagement.

“Furthermore, there’s no evidence from jurisdictions where wanding laws have been trialled to show that this deters knife carrying or reduces incidences of knife crime. Increasing police powers in this way comes with a significant risk that Aboriginal people and other populations who are already over-policed, criminalised and over-incarcerated will be targeted and more likely to be drawn into the criminal justice system. Anyone who refuses to undergo a wanding scan, or refuses to produce the object when requested, will commit an offence. This offence will have a penalty of up to 12 months jail and/or fine of up to $12,000.

“There is no evidence to suggest that the new laws could have prevented recent events where people were injured or killed by knives. We urge the WA Government to rethink its approach and build from the evidence base about what actually works to reduce crime.”

The Justice Reform Initiative is a multi-partisan alliance supported by more than 120 of our most eminent Australians, including two former Governors-General, former Members of Parliament from all sides of politics, academics, respected Aboriginal leaders, senior former judges, including High Court judges, and others who have added their voices to end Australia’s dangerously high reliance on jails.

The Initiative is calling for governments around Australia to move away from an entrenched reliance on incarceration as the mainstay of the criminal justice system and adopt an evidence-based approach to deliver better results for taxpayers, communities and people in the criminal justice system.


Media contact: Pia Akerman 0412 346 746

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