On 11 April, a 17-year-old boy who was believed to have been working at the Sydney Royal Easter Show was stabbed to death at around 8pm near the adult carnival rides, while another 16-year-old boy suffered a leg injury and is currently in a stable condition.
The NSW Ambulance Inspector reported that when the paramedics arrived the 17-year-old boy was in a cardiac arrest, as he suffered a traumatic chest wound. At the scene, CPR and other critical interventions were performed by the paramedics before he was transported to Westmead Hospital. However, he was unable to be resuscitated.
Investigations into the attack revealed that a 15-year-old boy had carried a knife in a public place and that the stabbing was not an accident. It was found that the incident involved two groups of people who knew each other and met for an intentional confrontation.
Police have encouraged witnesses to come forward, as they are still in the process of identifying the people responsible for the stabbing.
What offences may the 15-year-old boy who had a knife be charged with?
Custody of knife in a public place
Under s11C(1) of the Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW), a person must not, without reasonable excuse (proof of which lies on the person), have in his or her custody a knife in a public place.
A ‘public place’ under s3(1) of the Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW), is a place or part of a premise that is open or used by the public. A person convicted of this offence may be liable to imprisonment for a maximum of 2 years and/or a fine of $2,200.
To be found not guilty of this offence under s11C(2)(a) of the Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW), the teenage boy must establish a ‘reasonable excuse’ as to the custody of his knife which was reasonably necessary for:
(i) The lawful pursuit of the person’s occupation, education or training,
(ii) The preparation or consumption of food or drink,
(iii) Participation in a lawful entertainment, recreation or sport,
(iv) The exhibition of knives for retail or other trade purposes,
(v) An organized exhibition by knife collectors,
(vi) The wearing of an official uniform,
(vii) Genuine religious purposes
Given that this incident occurred at the Sydney Royal Easter Show, which is known as a fun family and friends event, it is unlikely that the boy would be able to rely on any of the above reasonable excuses. A reasonable excuse does not include carrying the knife for self-defence or the defence of another person. As such, the teenage boy will likely be found guilty of custody of a knife in a public place.
Being armed with intent to commit an indictable offence
Under s114(1)(a) of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), a person is guilty of this offence if they are armed with any weapon, or instrument, with intent to commit an indictable offence. A person guilty of this offence may be liable to imprisonment for 7 years.
The boy was found to have a knife in a public area, which would be considered a ‘weapon or instrument’. It can be alleged that his intent to commit an indictable offence is evident through one teenage boy suffering a leg injury and another fatally stabbed, which resulted in his death.
A person may seek to argue in defence that there was no intent to commit an indictable offence, or that their actions were accidental, however, in this case, unless there is further evidence revealed, it is likely that the 15-year-old boy will be held liable for armed with intent to commit an indictable offence.
What offences may the person responsible for the 16-year-old boy’s leg injury be held criminally liable for?
Wounding or grievous bodily harm with intent
Under s33(1) of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), a person is guilty of this offence if they wound any person or cause grievous bodily harm with intent. A person convicted of this offence may be liable to imprisonment for a maximum of 25 years.
Based on the investigations made into the attack, it was revealed that the stabbing was not an accident, as it involved two groups of people who knew each other and had met for an intentional confrontation. It was found that two rival groups had a brawl, which escalated into a deadly fight when a knife was pulled out and two teenagers were stabbed. An image that emerged on social media showed a male in a black hoodie holding a knife behind his back as he moved forward with a group of people. Unless there is further evidence, this would likely establish the man’s intent to wound another person as his actions resulted in a 17-year-old worker being killed, while the other suffered a knife wound to his leg.
What offences may the person who stabbed the 17-year-old boy be held criminally liable for?
Under s18(1)(b) of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), a person is guilty of manslaughter, which is every other punishable homicide other than murder. A person convicted of this offence is liable to imprisonment for a maximum of 25 years, under s24 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).
Manslaughter can be categorised as voluntary or involuntary. The difference between involuntary manslaughter and murder is the mens rea requirements. The main issue, in this case, is that there is insufficient information at present to conclude whether the person/(s) responsible for the 17-year-old boy’s death had intentions to murder him.
From the facts that we have at hand currently, as a knife was pulled out in the middle of a brawl and two teenagers were stabbed; one resulting in his death, it is likely that they could be charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Manslaughter by an unlawful and dangerous act
Based on Wilson v The Queen (1972) 174 CLR 313, the prosecution must prove that:
- There was an unlawful and dangerous act that created an appreciable risk of serious injury; and
- The death was caused by the act of the defendant; and
- The defendant intended to commit the act that caused the death.
Manslaughter by an unlawful and dangerous act does not require an intention to kill the other person, but rather that it was a willful action that was carried out by a person voluntarily. Based on images and footage of the incident that had been posted online, the man who carried a knife while walking with a group of people shows that it was a voluntary act.
Furthermore, the test for ‘dangerousness’ is objective and requires the court to consider whether a reasonable person in the position of the accused, who performed that act, would have recognized that they were exposing the deceased to an appreciable risk of serious injury. Given that the brawl occurred at the Sydney Royal Easter Show, a reasonable person would have deemed that carrying a knife while approaching the deceased, shows his intent to commit the act as well as exposing him to a high risk of sustaining a serious injury. As such, the person’s act has resulted in a teenage boy to have suffered a severe wound, which resulted in his death. Unless further evidence is revealed by the witnesses at the scene, the person responsible for the death of the teenage boy would likely be held liable for involuntary manslaughter.
What defences can a person rely on?
An act will not be ‘unlawful’ if the accused can rely on defence. A person may seek to rely on relevant defences such as consent, duress or self-defence.
As the incident involved two groups who were involved in a brawl, other people may be held criminally liable for the crime committed by another person.
Accessory at the fact–aider and abettor
An aider and abettor are present at the time and place a crime is committed by another person, and intentionally assist or encourage that person to commit the crime.
The fact that a person was simply present at the scene of the crime is not enough to establish that they are an aider and abettor, even if the person knew the crime was to be committed. The prosecutor must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the person who was present at the scene intended to assist or encourage the person who committed the crime. If the person is present for that purpose, that makes the person an aider and abettor in that crime even if such encouragement or assistance is not required.
The police have not currently identified all participants who were involved in the brawl. However, an image that was uploaded on social media revealed a group of people walking with a teenage boy who was carrying a knife. The prosecutor would need to establish that they had the knowledge of all essential facts or circumstances and had intentionally assisted or encouraged the boy to commit the crime.
Joint Criminal Liability
Joint criminal liability arises from the making of an agreement, whether tacit or express and the offender’s participation in its execution. A person who is present when the agreed crime is committed participates in a joint enterprise. Joint criminal liability involves the attribution of acts, where one person will be personally responsible for the acts of another. Thus, if it can be proved that there was an agreement with two or more persons to carry out a particular criminal activity, in this case, to wound the teenage boy, then each is held to be criminally responsible for the acts of another participant in carrying out that enterprise or activity.
If you or anyone you know has been charged with this type of offence, you should immediately seek Legal Advice. Our experienced Criminal Defence Lawyers at KPT Defence Lawyers have significant and specialised experience in all areas of criminal and traffic law.
 R v Haywood  VR 755;
 R v Vollmer  1 VR 95.
 Huynh v The Queen  HCA 6.
 IL v The Queen  HCA 27.
*Disclaimer: This is intended as general information only and not to be construed as legal advice. The above information is subject to changes over time. You should always seek professional advice before taking any course of action*.