More Grief From The Nsw Firearms Registry…. And Tactics On How To Address It
As a Legal Practitioner, I really find it offensive that I have to write an article like this in order to see justice afforded to shooters in the State of NSW.
Sadly, concepts of fairness, and application of fundamental principles of Justice seem to escape elements of the NSW Police Force, which rather ironically falls under the NSW Justice portfolio.
In 2018 John Edwards murdered his two children and then committed suicide. The crime and tragedy compounded in 2020 when his former wife, unable to cope with the loss, tragically elected to join her children.
Mr Edwards firearm of choice was possessed by him as a result of a Commissioners Permit. I am deliberately not using the description now preferred by the Police, of Commanders Permit, which has presumably been adopted to distance the Commissioner from the decision, but rather its description of the Permit in the Firearms Act 1996.
I have no idea how Edwards got the holy grail of Permits or licences- a Commissioners Permit for a handgun, and leave that to the Coroner, but since then, the NSW Police Department has been in damage control, restructuring the Registry in an obvious attempt at damage minimization.
You, the shooters of NSW have been casualties of this.
Last year, the Registry introduced Decision Making Guidelines that I have written about in my 20 January 2020 article. Amazingly, the Guidelines make no mention of Procedural Fairness / Natural Justice.
I understand that civilian managers at the NSW Registry have been replaced by Police Managers, I believe of the rank of Inspector. What were once line ball decisions that could be decided in favour of the individual upon the basis of reasonable consideration of evidence and reasoning, have been replaced by decisions where if the decision maker can idly speculate that someone poses a risk, the decision is to find against the individual.
Registry decisions have never been good, but over recent months they have become worse. Now reasoning is not apparent from a primary decision. I understand this is because the Registry have inferred from the Administrative Decisions Act that because you can ask for reasons, they do not have to provide them at first instance.
Frankly this is nothing but a contrivance that makes the understanding of a decision and providing advice to a person who has had an adverse decision made against them even more difficult.
The clear intention of the Act was to enable decisions to be sought where in some situations they may not have been provided, or to enable further decisions to be requested where inadequate decisions had been furnished.
So, what do you do if you receive an adverse decision from the Firearms Registry?
Remember you have 28 days in order to appeal the decision, and often you have no idea why the Registry have refused you.
Send an email to the Registry at firstname.lastname@example.org the following effect:
Dear Sir / Madam
RE: YOUR NAME:
YOUR LICENCE NUMBER:
DATE OF DECISION:
Please provide reasons for your decision in accordance with s49 of the Administrative Decisions Review Act 1997 within the statutory time period (as soon as practicable, and in any event within 28 days).
Please also consider this a letter an Appeal for the purposes of s53 of the Administrative Decisions Review Act 1997.
Reasons in support of decision shall be furnished within a reasonable period of receipt of reasons and material also secured via GIPAA.
This letter starts the clock by lodging an Appeal, overcoming the 28-day time period, and prevents you from being prejudiced more than necessarily by delays.
You can withdraw it later if desired.
Then do an internet search on Police GIPAA- what NSW calls Freedom of Information, requesting records held by them in electronic or hard copy form that relate to you.
Once you have this material, you should hopefully be in a better position to seek legal advice and prepare a submission.
Note, the current culture of rejection at the Registry means that it is becoming increasingly important that appeals be lodged to NCAT.
Given that the primary decision maker often does not cover all matters that may be covered in an appeal decision, I like to throw the net in a GIPAA request quite broadly. This can then form the basis for a s58 document that shall need to be filed if you proceed to the Tribunal.
Frankly, the entire decision-making model under the Firearms Act 1996 needs urgent revision. Police are in damage control and clearly uncomfortable making appropriate decisions, and the NCAT model is needlessly adversarial and costly when lawyers are used.
The NSW Registry needs to adopt the prevailing culture of most Registries in Australia, and also that favoured by most regulatory lawyers – that of getting the decision right first time. I am sure that the NSW Auditor-General would agree with me on this.
This would mean flattening the decision-making structure at the Registry. There then needs to be an external Board that determines appeals quickly and cheaply, with appeals to the Tribunal as a last resort.