Friday, February 05, 2010

Lies, damned lies, and David Garrett

ACT MP David Garrett has found another law and order bandwagon to jump on, this time about knives. Yesterday, in a sentencing decision, High Court Justice Raynor Asher said that it may be time for parliament to reconsider laws banning the carrying of knives. Garrett approves, and folds this into his usual narrative about how we've gone "soft on crime":

"Carrying a knife without a reasonable excuse was once a serious offence that drew harsh penalties. In the softening up of the justice system that has occurred over the past 20 years the harsh penalties for knife possession have been lost. It is time for that to change," Mr Garrett said.
Really? The history of the relevant law - section 13A of the Summary Offences Act 1981 - tells a different story. As originally enacted almost 30 years ago, possession of knives in public without reasonable excuse carried a penalty of 3 months imprisonment or a $1,000 fine. In 1998, that was doubled to $2,000. Contrary to Garrett's assertion, the penalties have not been reduced - they have been increased. But then, Garrett has never let facts get in the way of his narrative, has he?

Update: A reader has also pointed me at s202A of the Crimes Act 1961, which provides for a penalty of two years imprisonment for having a knife, offensive weapon or disabling substance in a public place without reasonable excuse or lawful authority. The relevant section was inserted in 1982 and last amended in 1986; I'm not sure what that amendment did, but either way it is outside Garrett's 20-year timeframe.