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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 1 Hansard (15 February) . . Page.. 264 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

I and the Labor Party appreciate the difficulty the police have in proving intent when a charged person denies any intentional wrongdoing. However, that difficulty is no reason for making persons going about their everyday business suspected criminals because of the contents of their pockets, handbags or briefcases, or indeed because they are carrying a handbag, a briefcase, a pen or anything else. That is what the definition does.

Otherwise innocuous objects such as ballpoint pens, keys, nailfiles, combs or handbags could be classified as offensive weapons under the government's definition and persons carrying them charged with offences under the Crimes Act. That is the potential that this definition of offensive weapon creates. Everybody is potentially liable to be charged with an offence under the Crimes Act simply for possessing these everyday objects. That is an absurd result. It is quite absurd that through a definition of this sort we render the carrying of day-to-day objects potentially criminal.

The difficulty-and I guess this is the difficulty the government seeks to address-is that all of these objects, and in fact any object, can be dangerous when wielded with intent to harm another person in a fight. To overcome this problem, I propose within the amendments I have moved that we follow the New South Wales precedent of setting out some dangerous weapons and then allowing for a catch-all provision based on the fact that the thing must be made or adapted for an offensive purpose or the thing in the circumstances must be used, intended for use or threatened to be used for offensive purposes. It takes out of the definition this notion of anything that is capable of being used as a weapon, irrespective of any need to find or determine an intention.

The definition of offensive weapon which the New South Wales authorities and the New South Wales police find adequate is one that one would expect in the criminal law, one which requires some notional linkage to the need for there to be some intent, some mental element, some mens rea, some intention in the mind of the person carrying the object to use the object for an offensive purpose.

Even though the "capable of being used" phrase is dropped from this definition, the definition is still broad enough to allow the police a wide discretion in determining what is an offensive weapon. In the New South Wales definition there still is that capacity. There is an enormous capacity in the New South Wales definition to allow the police that discretion in determining whether or not something is an offensive weapon. The police in New South Wales do not seem to have any difficulty working within that definition, which has been in place for many years, unlike the ACT definition, which has been in place for just six or seven weeks.

I contend, and the Labor Party contends, that the police should have no difficulty in upholding charges involving possession or use of offensive weapons, as I have defined that term, against persons who might, for example, use a bottle or beer glass in a fight or wrap a metal watchband around their knuckles before hitting an opponent.

To conclude, I go to the definitions to illustrate the point. The definition of offensive weapon currently contained within the Crimes Act, in effect the definition which the Attorney-General now proposes replace other definitions of offensive weapon, refers to the capacity to use the weapon for an offensive purpose. There is a small but very significant difference between the two definitions. As I said, the definition which the

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