Actions And Their Consequences
Brisbane Arrest Court – 23 year old found one charge of physically possessing weapons by police – corner of Adelaide & Edward St – no criminal history – weapons were for his girlfriend as a souvenir – plead guilty – fined $250
Perhaps due to the nature of this matter, which I believe was a ‘simple offence’, may have been the reason that it was dealt with summarily in the Magistrates Court. After doing some further research on the topic of holding weapons in public places and the legal repercussions of such matters, it came to my attention that the prosecution or magistrate could have used a case precedent for their argument e.g. Section 51(1) of the Weapons Act 1997 which states “a person must not physically possess a knife in a public place, or a school, without a reasonable excuse.” Using the respected Act as the Magistrate’s main argument, prosecution may have been able to sway the Magistrate’s decision by mentioning subsection 51(2) of the Weapons Act 1997 which further explains the definition of “reasonable excuse.”
The following can be accepted as “reasonable excuses” for subsection 1 by the Magistrate if found to be physically possessing a knife in a public place: 1. Using for a lawful purpose, 2. Lawfully exhibiting the knife, 3. Participating in a lawful entertainment, recreation or sport or 4. Performing a lawful activity, duty or employment. It is also mentioned that physically possessing a knife for self-defence purpose is strictly not a ‘reasonable excuse.’ These key points within the Act could have been used by the prosecution, as well as the magistrate to perhaps formulate a different response to the guilty plea that was presented to them.
It is also interesting to note the location in which the weapons were found on K (two in belt and two in backpack), which perhaps further suggests that K’s intentions may have been different to what was mentioned. From a societal standpoint, it seems to me if items were bought for the purpose of a gift it is customary to either wrap them in gift paper or placed neatly somewhere in a bag. Such a thought further prompted me to believe K’s intentions may have not been reasonable, as two of the ‘gifts’ were found in his belt, which is usually not an appropriate place to store ‘gifts.’ Such points could possibly have been used by the prosecution to sway the magistrate in sentencing a harsher penalty for K, however, as observed in court, the no objections by the prosecution seemed to be working in favour for K and his counsel.
If such Act had been brought up by the Magistrate and asked K’s counsel to explain what a ‘reasonable excuse’ is and to present his arguments, it is possible that the mention could have not been as in much favour for K as it was. Such point has been highlighted because as per my observations, if the Magistrate was to ask said question to the accused, he would accept that a. he was carrying weapons in a public area and b. his excuse may have been reasonable, but the location in which the weapons were found may void his justification for possessing in the first place. It was also observed that the conduct of the counsel for the accused was very concise and ‘straight to the point’, and I noticed that the lack of further detail to strengthen K’s argument may possibly have been to prevent the magistrate from ‘opening more doors’ and asking more questions.
The briefness and the summarised nature of the offence ultimately was in K’s favour and was given a $250 fine for his offence, however, I do believe that the magistrate may have also looked at the ethical side of the case, and didn’t purely use the plain interpretation of the facts presented to make a decision. With that being said, although it seems like ‘common sense’ for one to not carry weapons on themselves in public without a justified reason, magistrates do have the power to interpret cases in different ways, and it seems as the magistrate for K possibly used legal morality and ethics to decide the penalty. From a third party perspective observing the matter and hearing all of the material facts, a fine of $250 for the one charge is generous, given that some details of K’s argument regarding location and intention did not seem to match up as well as it should have.
It is also important to think from the magistrate’s point of view and to try to understand why he fined K $250 for this charge. It appears that the magistrate may have given K the ‘benefit of the doubt’ for lack of better terms, as K is fairly young (23 years of age) man without any criminal history with a well-paying job. The magistrate’s remark about rules and regulations being set in place prohibiting weapons in public areas could possibly have been a gentle warning that there are severe repercussions if such behaviour is to be repeated. $250 is definitely not a small amount of money, however, the fine could definitely have been much more if a different magistrate was in court. K’s tidied appearance and modest behaviour may have also been to his advantage when being present in court. Further reflecting on the magistrate’s decision, it is good to not place such a heavy penalty for an accused’s first mention in court who doesn’t have a criminal history to not only hopefully encourage people such as him out of inappropriate behaviour, but to also understand that actions do have their consequences.
Although I focused on only one case in court, compared to the many that are presented every day, I have found a new respect for the magistrate and prosecution who day by day make difficult decisions for various types of cases. Just by observing, it can be suggested that morality played a big role in K’s penalty and that ethics plays a big role within our courts to not only penalise, but to also educate people about the consequences of their actions.
By Ahva Estah
Ahva is a second-year law/business (HR) student in Brisbane with an interest in family law, criminal law and human resource management. You can follow Ahva on LinkedIn @ahva-e
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