NSW registry's decision making process - medical

A NSW shooter is set to get his licence back after the NSW registry relied on medical information that it should not have received – and misquoted. This story is about how the registry is sending the wrong messages to shooters.

Forgetting medical confidentiality

THE NSW FIREARMS REGISTRY continues to behave badly after selectively quoting a medical assessment that determined a shooter was fit to hold a licence – by revoking his licence.

This follows previous stories we covered on how the registry had revoked another licence because the holder showed it to someone he was having a conversation with, and other reports of licence revocations by those claiming concessions based on Department of Veteran Affairs cards.

Getting medical help

Gavin (not his real name) did have issues in his life and sought assistance from medical practitioners who are well equipped to provide it.  That, we believe, was right thing to do.

Even the wildly out-of-step WA government is about to mandate mental health checks.

Gavin even made sure his rifles remained safe with a dealer while the matter was being sorted out.   He also notified the registry of where the guns were being stored through it’s online portal.

Licence revoked

In July 2022, Gavin had his licence suspended and revoked – both on the same day. 

The revocation notice had actually been withdrawn at the time; however this had not been communicated to the police that served the notice on him. Unfortunately, once served, the notice could not be removed.

S79 notice

The reason why the police did this was that the medical professional Gavin saw had made a  s79 Notification to the NSW registry.   

That is where a medical professional notifies the Chief Commissioner of a ‘circumstance’ that should be of interest to him. For example, that someone with a firearms licence might threaten self-harm.

The mystery medical report

As a result of this,  NSW Police required Gavin to get a Medical Risk Assessment.

He organised one but rather than receive it, the registry directed that Gavin was not to receive a copy.

This left him with no ability to respond to any of the matters it contained – regardless of whether they were correct or not.


As many NSW shooters have experienced, the NSW Registry’s ability to keep accurate records is not great. 

The records the registry used when they revoked his licence, contradicted the information Gavin had provided. You will recall he did this through the online portal when he stored his guns with a dealer.

This calls into question how it is possible for the registry to have out-of-date information when correct information is provided through the portal.

One of the key concerns about talk about creating a national registry is the quality of the data that our current state registries have.  This is a prime example of why building a bigger system runs the risk of “garbage in, garbage out”. In fact it was a key reason why a similar proposal failed around 20 years ago.

It is also why our police services are not well equipped to manage information like this. It’s not their core skill or function.

Delays, delays, delays

IN NSW, the registry does not have any clear timelines in which it has to make its decisions.

If your licence is suspended, then you cannot use the online portal to create an application to renew your licence – which means your only course of action is to submit a paper application.  Without an application, the registry can close your suspension when your licence expires.

If you wish to apply to renew your licence (once the suspension is lifted), the police can “refuse an application for any reason”.  Any reason is clearly very, very broad.

In other words, the system in NSW is set up to put shooters in an endless bureaucratic loop, without any apparently accountability for the police, or option other than to take them to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT).

“You must be out of control”

One of Gavin’s key messages, which is something we’ve warned shooters of before, is that if you provide medical information to NSW Police, they will use them against you.

In fact the behaviour of the registry has been worse than that.

Gavin had his firearms moved to safe storage.  The Registry claimed that this was proof Gavin “felt out of control” and could not be trusted with  firearms.

Yet it was the medical evidence they received undermined their case.  The report did not claim Gavin was any risk. There was no such diagnosis. He was in fact safe.

NCAT relied on previous cases that confirmed that “only real and actual diagnosis of an illness can be used to make a decision”

Claiming that a shooter is unfit to hold a licence because they went to a doctor or put their guns into storage is not good enough.  

The NCAT win

Gavin took his matter to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT).

It was became apparent during the NCAT matter that there was nothing in the report that indicated that Gavin was a risk to anyone – or that he was not otherwise fit and proper to hold his licence.  All it said was a general observation about the potential risks of firearms that had nothing to do with Gavin.

Rather than run the risk of losing, NSW Police decided to settle the matter with Gavin – which means he is now set to get his licence and guns back when it is finalised.

His ‘win’ came after Gavin decided to fight the matter himself – and after his now former solicitor estimated it would cost him $12,000 to fight the matter and had ‘no chance’ of winning.

The solicitor is someone well known in the shooting circles, but we have elected not to name him.

Why he won

At this stage, we don’t actually know why NSW Police folded their cards.

What we do know is that the police had engaged external counsel, who we think quickly realised that there was a lack of fairness in the process that was used. 

Gavin was also fortunate enough to have a magistrate and another lawyer in his family.

Both were of the view that key evidence was withheld from Gavin. This jeopardised his ability to respond to the allegations raised by police.

The good news is that Gavin will get his licence and guns back.

The implications

The registry’s actions – specifically it’s refusal to let Gavin see the report – has had some significant implications.

  • FIRST: The decision was on a quote it took from the report, which Gavin was not allowed to see until the matter went to NCAT.  The quote was a general observation about the potential risks of firearms that had nothing to do with Gavin himself.  Importantly the report made no adverse comment on his mental health; 
  • SECONDLY: Gavin was not able to proof-read, correct or clarify anything in the report prior to it going to the police;
  • THIRDLY: The registry misplaced the assessment they requested when they initially received it. It was only when Gavin followed the matter up with the registry that they found it.  The problem this could have created is that police would have deemed Gavin failed to provide the report – yet that was clearly incorrect.

Sending all the wrong messages

The registry’s behaviour sends the wrong messages.  Those messages are:

  • Shooters should think twice about seeking medical help when it is needed;
  • Shooters should not store guns with dealers when they are seeking help;
  • Shooters cannot trust the registry with medical information that they were not entitled to receive – and was inaccurate;
  • The registry can take action on information without checking it’s accuracy – and where the information is vague in nature.

We’re not suggesting that shooters should not seek medical help or store guns. It’s just that this is the message that the registry’s behaviour is sending.

Gavin’s advice to shooters

His advice to shooters who might be asked to get a Medical Risk Assessment is to understand that it is they who asked for, and pay for, it. 

Don’t let the report go directly to the registry. Instead, receive the report yourself, understand what is in it and then submit it if you need to. 

We recommend you clarify this before agreeing to an assessment.

If you don’t, you may not get a chance to make sure the registry doesn’t twist things the wrong way.

Why not put this on your club’s noticeboard? 

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