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Weapons search in a designated area

Additional police powers to search for weapons in areas that they have designated.

Police and Protective services officers (PSOs) have extra powers to search people for weapons in particular areas, called 'designated areas'. They can also require a person to remove a face covering if they believe that person is trying to conceal their identity or to avoid the effects of capsicum spray. Police can also require a person to leave the area if the person refuses to remove their face cover or if police reasonably believe that person intends to engage in the offences of affray or violent disorder.

Police or PSOs do not need a warrant to search in a designated area and if police make an 'unplanned designation', they do not need to warn the public where the searches will happen.

If the designated area is in or near a railway then Protective Services Officers (PSOs) will also have this power to search people for weapons as long as they are on duty. They must be accompanied by police.

See:

What is a designated area?

The Chief Commissioner of Police (or delegate) can declare any public area to be a designated area if:

  • more than one incident of violence or disorder involving weapons has occurred during the last 12 months or
  • an event is going to be held in that area and violent incidents involving weapons have occurred when the event has been held before (even if the event was at a different location, or
  • police get information to say that an incident involving the use of weapons is about to happen.

The police must believe that there is a likelihood that the violence or disorder will happen again. 'Likely' does not mean more likely than not.

Only an inspector or more senior police officer has the power to declare an area to be designated.

See ss. 10C, 10D, 10E, 10F—Control of Weapons Act 1990 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

How will people know which areas are designated?

They probably will not know

Police do not have to notify the public if they want to act quickly. The Police Commissioner or Assistant Commissioner is authorised to make an unplanned declaration in this case (s. 10E).

See Unplanned or surprise searches.

How designated areas will be publicised

In a planned designation the location (including a map) of random search areas must be published in:

  • the Victoria Government Gazette (VGG)
  • a major daily newspaper at least a week before the police exercise these powers.

It is sufficient to make a notification that refers the reader to a Victoria Police website that includes a map of the designated area. This notice has to specify the powers that police or PSOs are authorised to use in the designated area while the declaration is in force.

The power to search commences directly after the notice is published.

See ss. 10D(4), 10D(5), 10D(6)—Control of Weapons Act 1990 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

For an example of a designated area declaration see Special Gazette No. S501—Thursday 31 December 2009 (PDF)(opens in a new window).

Limits on designating an area

The Act imposes some restrictions on the powers to designate an area:

  • if reason for the designation relates to a particular event (like a music festival) searches may only be carried out during that event
  • an area can only be treated as a designated area for up to 12 hours (but there is no limit for an event)
  • there are also limits on how frequently an area can be designated
  • the area must not be any larger than is reasonably necessary to enable police to effectively respond to the threat of violence or disorder.

See s. 10D—Control of Weapons Act 1990 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Time between declarations of an area

There must be at least 10 days between the end of one designation and the beginning of the next.

However police may make an 'unplanned designation' under s. 10E, for this area during the 10 day restriction.

See ss. 10D(8), 10D(9)—Control of Weapons Act 1990 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Before police conduct a search they must:

  • explain what they are going to do
  • say why they suspect that the person is carrying a weapon
  • tell the person their name, rank and place of duty
  • give some form of identification if they are not wearing a uniform.

Police may confiscate anything that they believe is a weapon.

See 10I—Control of Weapons Act 1990 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

What kind of search can police do?

The police can:

  • use an initial electronic device search (for example, a metal detector)
  • request that the person empty their pockets, bag etc.
  • pat or rub their hands over the person’s outer clothing (pat-down search)
  • require the person to take off their outer clothing (for example, a jacket)
  • require the person to have a strip search (if they reasonably believe this is necessary and they follow the rules set out in the Act).

Police may also conduct a search of a vehicle in a designated area.

See ss. 10G, 10H, Schedule 1—Control of Weapons Act 1990 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Although the police have the powers to do a strip search, they must only do this if other kinds of searches can't be used in the circumstances. They are more likely to use a metal detector. PSOs do not have the power to conduct strip searches.

Police have to protect the dignity of the person who is searched.

Police may detain someone for as long as is reasonably necessary to conduct the search.

If strip searched, police may require name and address

If police intend to conduct a strip search of a person in a designated area, they have the power to require that person to provide their name and address.

See cll. 7, 8, 9 Schedule—Control of Weapons Act 1990 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Penalties

A person can be issued with a fine if they:

  • refuse to give their name and address without a reasonable excuse before being strip searched—1 penalty unit
  • give false name and address—1 penalty unit
  • try to prevent police conducting a search in a designated area—2 penalty units
  • fail to comply with a police direction to remove face covering or to leave a designated area—5 penalty units.

Penalty if weapons are found

  • are over 16 and they are carrying a weapon without a lawful excuse (first offence only) $1,000
  • are over 16 and are caught carrying a weapon unlawfully near licensed premises ($2,000).

If the person found carrying a weapon is under 16 or if this is not the person's first offence, they will have to appear in court.

See ss. 10K, 11C—Control of Weapons Act 1990 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

What weapons can police search for?

There are three separate categories of weapons that police can search for in a public place. These are:

  • prohibited weapons (weapons that are banned), like flick knives, daggers, and knuckle dusters
  • controlled weapons (items that can be used legitimately in some situations but are potentially dangerous in other situations, like a kitchen knife, martial arts equipment, hammer, spear-gun or nail gun)
  • dangerous objects (anything that has been modified to make it dangerous) broken bottle, sharpened stick, cricket bat with nails hammered into it.

The Victoria Police website allows you to search for particular items to find out if they are unlawful.

See Victoria Police—Weapons definitions(opens in a new window).

More information

Legislation

Control of Weapons Act 1990 (Vic)

  • s. 10AA—search by a protective services officer
  • s. 10C—defines a 'designated area' as an area declared under ss. 10D or 10E
  • s. 10D—explains what is required
  • s. 10F—the Chief Commissioner of Police can only delegate the power to designate an area to an officer of the rank of inspector.
  • s. 10G—police search powers of people in designated areas
  • s. 10GA—PSO power to search persons in designated area
  • s. 10GA(2)—PSOs are not permitted to conduct strip searches
  • s. 10H—power to search vehicles in designated areas
  • s. 10I—information that must be given to someone before police conduct a search of a person, vehicle or thing under the designated area search powers
  • s. 10K—gives police the power to require a person who is strip searched to give their name and address
  • s. 10L—offence and penalty for obstructing police or failing to follow a direction under Schedule 1
  • s. 11C—establishes infringement penalties for possessing or carrying a controlled weapon
  • Schedule 1—Conduct of searches

See Control of Weapons Act 1990 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

To see how searches must be conducted go to Control of Weapons Act 1990 (Vic)—Schedule 1—Conduct of searches(opens in a new window).

Crimes Act 1958 (Vic)

  • s. 195H—offence of affray
  • s. 195I—offence of violent disorder

See Crimes Act 1958 (Vic).

Victoria Police

The following information from the Victoria Police website might be useful:

Updated