I have an conviction for assault and robbery. The convictions occurred over 7 years ago. Can I get a firearms licence in Victoria? HR, Melbourne.
To give you advice in respect to your likelihood of success, I need a lot more information. I would have to say on the face of it, however, that a conviction involving assault and robbery normally does not travel well in the public mind so far as the possession of a firearm is concerned.
An assault can involve anything from a verbal threat that leaves a person feeling intimidated, to a bashing that the victim barely survives. Robbery is a similarly broad category.
If the assault and robbery was of any ‘significance’ you are going to be wasting your time and money proceeding at the present time, and my advice would be not to bother.
As matters are rarely as simple as they seem and you may, following investigation, have valid grounds to apply for a licence, I suggest the following.
As a starting point, what were the circumstances of the offence? What was taken? And how was it taken? Do you have a copy of the papers that you would have been served with by the Police, before going to Court?
If you gave them to a Solicitor, approach him and see if you can get them back. The Solicitor must keep the documents for a minimum of seven years, so we may be able to get them this way.
If you have no luck there, we may need to lodge a Freedom of Information Act request with the Police Department and the Attorney Generals Department in your state. This will cost a minimum of thirty dollars each.
I suggest you also attend the local Police station while they are not busy, (if they are, I suggest you call back, because you are about to ask the Police for a favour) Ask an officer to call up your record and let you know what you were convicted of and what the penalty was.
The Firearms Registry will treat the Court papers prepared by Police as gospel unless there are comments from the bench that contradict them.
I normally like to be able to submit a copy of the summing up of the Judge or Magistrate, but the tape of this will have been long since copied over. This is one reason why I always suggest to a convicted person that they apply for a copy of the Judge or Magistrates summing up shortly after conviction.
The first question we need to ask is whether you are able to make an application.
Section 3 of the Victorian Firearms Act prohibits a range of people from possessing a firearm, and, possibly relevant to you, this includes the following situations:
Those serving a term of imprisonment, either in Victoria or elsewhere, for an indictable offence, or an assault or an offence under the Drugs Possession & Controlled Offences Act 1981 or an offence under the Control of Weapons Act 1990 from holding a firearms licence.
If you spent five or more years in gaol less than fifteen years ago
If within the last five years you have:
Finished a sentence of less than five years
Been imprisoned in respect to an offence under s321 or 21 A of the Crimes Act 1958
Served an old Community based order under clause 1 of schedule 3 of the Sentencing Act or a Community Corrections Order.
Assuming that none of the above apply, you can apply for a Firearms Licence. This does not mean that you will be granted a licence, merely that it shall be considered.
It is going to be desirable for you to engage a lawyer with experience with this sort of matter draft your application. If you simply lodge an application without supporting documents and without covering the right points, I can almost guarantee that your application will be rejected.
What we will need to do is consider how we can convince the authorities that you are not the same person now as the person who broke the law.
Think seriously about how has your life changed? Who do you know who can now speak out on your behalf who is prepared to attest to this? They should be of some standing in the Community, i.e. sporting coaches, fire brigade bosses, scout masters, teachers, clergymen, business people, JP’s, doctors.
These people must really know you. A letter from a GP who simply sees you twice a year with when you have a cough or cold will not suffice.
Remember, there is no right to bear arms in australia, and you must be able to demonstrate that granting you a licence to possess a firearm is not going to involve the public in any risk.
I have had some good success dealing with appeals in Victoria. Usually I prepare appeal documents and I suggest that the individual front the Tribunal alone. If you want me to appear, I am happy to do so, although this will add airfares from Canberra and overnight accommodation costs, as well as my fee for the day.
Appearing in person in Victoria before the Firearms Appeals Committee is not as daunting as it sounds, particularly when the members have had the benefit and guidance of a well researched paper setting out the facts contended by you and considering relevant law.
Because you are talking to the Tribunal directly, rather than hiding behind a mouthpiece, I have found that the relative informality of the Victorian appeal system can actually assists a person because, by talking directly to you and hearing your answers, Tribunal members are better able to assess your character and motives, and form a view whether you are a risk or not.
I note that there is increasing use in most Australian states of Firearms Prohibition Orders, which prevent a person charged with offences that Police consider serious from ever applying for a Firearms Licence.
I shall discuss these Orders in a future column.