NSW registry's decision making process - medical

You haven’t done anything wrong, but the police just took your guns off you. 
What do you do now?

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You get the letter – or a knock on the door

YOU FOUGHT HARD to get and keep your licence, so what do you do when that’s challenged?

What do you do when you get a letter saying you need to surrender your licence – or the police roll up to take your guns off you?

Comply, but challenge

Firstly, please remember, the police are just doing what or politicians directed them to do – so follow their instructions

You have rights to appeal decisions, and if someone did the wrong thing, there is a way to make sure that gets fixed up

That said, if you are aware the police will be coming to take your guns off you, then get an appropriately licensed friend or dealer to look after them for you. 

It’ll make sure they don’t get thrown on the floor of the paddy wagon.

That’s because while you might lose your licence (or it might be suspended) to possess them, but you still own your firearms: they remain your property until a court says otherwise.

Why could you lose your licence?

Licences may be suspended or revoked for a number of reasons.

Legislation usually sets out that if you commit an indictable crime (rob a bank…), you’ll lose your licence.  Well, that’s hardly a surprise….

However, state and territory firearms legislation usually gives police the discretion to grant or suspend / revoke licences where they believe you are or are not a ‘fit and proper person’ to hold the licence.

That’s obviously a wide discretion, and is usually the most common we find is being used. 

We know of cases there police relied on decade old offences that had already been dealt with. 

There were also cases of people losing their licences after receiving COVID fines during the lockdowns.

Intervention orders

Another common reason – and one which is harder to deal with – are when shooters might find themselves at the receiving end of a intervention order

Donation imageThe reason it is harder to deal with is because most firearms acts make disqualification automatic.

Unfortunately vindictive partners have sought orders for no reason other than to get their spouses licence taken off them.

If you find yourself at the receiving end of an order, then do get a lawyer.

Fighting the order is likely to be the best way to keep your licence. 

Again, see if you can get your firearms into someone else’s safe custody to make sure they stay safe. 

… but in all cases …

Regardless of why your licence might be suspended or revoked, you will get a letter stating why that is the case, and what you can do about it.

If you find your guns are taken off you, do not panic.  This is just another problem of life that can be fixed.

Insist on receiving paperwork to document what has happened. If you don’t get it on the spot, ask to speak with the officer in charge

The paperwork should tell you why the action that is being taken, was taken.

Importantly the paperwork should also tell you what your rights are.  This might include a ‘right of internal review’ (which is an appeal by another name).

If they ask you for an interview

It would be exceedingly rare, but it the police ask you to participate in a formal interview, be wary

Cooperating with the police might seem to be the right thing to do, but our experience is that will do the opposite.

This author’s own background is in law enforcement.  All a formal interview is likely to do for you is to add to the evidence that will be used against you.  

In fact you might want to watch this very helpful video.

However this is not legal advice. We suggest that if you do get approached for a formal interview,  you get legal advice first. 

Time limits

NO MATTER what state or territory you are in, you will have some appeal rights.  We cover them in our podcast, but the key thing to remember is that you will have a time limit.

Typically, that will be 28 days from the date of the letter.

Do not let the time limit expire – because if you do, you might lose further appeal rights.

Where to appeal

Typically you will be able to appeal to the following:

  1. An internal review with the relevant police force;
  2. A firearms appeals tribunal – such as the ones in Victoria or the Northern Territory;
  3. A Civil and Administrative Tribunal – in all states and territories other than Tasmania;
  4. A magistrates court or higher

The first one – an internal review – will be easy and free to use.  Just make sure you explain why you should be able to retain your licence (ie that you are a ‘fit and proper’ to hold a licence).

Don’t make the mistake of arguing why a particular law is good or bad or should be changed: the police can’t help you with that.

The next two avenues (tribunals) are relatively easy and cheap to file appeals in.    If you lose your internal review, then this is where you can usually go next.  Filing costs might be a couple of hundred dollars.

The last one (courts) is something you might be able to do yourself depending on the jurisdiction, but most shooters use lawyers for this.

In fact some shooters use lawyers to help them at the earlier stages. It will depend on whether you can afford that help.

The system is slow, but it works

EXPECT that proceedings to take weeks to occur.  This will be frustrating because you will want answers sooner, but do be patient.

Proceedings will likely involve ‘mentions’ and ‘directions hearings’ which simply set out how the matter will be heard and run. 

You might also be invited to a mediation session in an attempt to see if the matter can be resolved before going further.

Parties will often be asked to make submissions – where the arguments are set out on paper, paragraph by paragraph.

That’s why appeals are not quick processes.  These cause delays, but they make it easier to get to the heart of the matter.  It’s not like on TV: you don’t just roll up to a hearing and argue your case on the day. 

That’s why we suggest you should expect most cases to take 3 to 6 months – because that is what we’ve seen.

We also say the system works because proceeding this way does require the real reasons why your licence is suspended or revoked to be put on paper where you can deal with them.

The success rate of those who appeal is good. We find that around 60-70% of shooters who face licence issues manage to get their licences back.

That’s why it’s worth fighting.

Good lawyers, bad lawyers

THE GOLD STANDARD is to use a lawyer.  Obviously this comes at a cost that many shooters cannot bear.  Getting a lawyer to handle your appeal is a good idea but we’ve heard of instances of where the wrong ones have done more harm than good.

When you get one, make sure they have experience with your state or territory’s firearms legislation. Make sure you feel comfortable about how they communicate with you.

Do they know their stuff?  Are they succinct or do they waffle on?  What has been their success record?

Understanding this will give you an idea of how good or bad they might be for you.  Do not be afraid to ask them hard questions – because this is about your money and your licence. 

We do have our list of lawyers we recommend – and don’t recommend.

Some mixed results

RON STERRY:  We helped Ron Sterry fight his case in the NT after going to help a stabbed neighbour. Unfortunately he was beaten by a technicality over a semi-colon. 

That was obviously a bad result that even the judiciary said was unfair and asked the NT Police Minister to have the law changed.

PR podcast image - appealPETER MARTIN:  We also helped NSW retiree, Peter Martin, who lost his licence after simply showing it to someone at a grain store.

He won his licence back – which was obviously a good result – in a matter that should have arisen in the first place.

MICHAEL DIAMOND:  Many of you might have recently read how Olympic Gold Medalist, Michael Diamond, lost his fight to get his licence back. 

His problems go back to 2017 over drink driving and unsecured ammo charges.

To us, we think that’s the wrong result.  These were relatively minor, old charges that will prevent Michael from competing at this year’s Olympics.

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The legal stuff

Please note, we’re not lawyers and this is not legal advice. If you need help for your own situation and appeal, you should get your own legal advice although that is entirely your call.   

However this is information that may help you in deciding which way you go.

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The thing to remain aware of at all times is that the police are there to do a job – they’re not your enemy. They’ve been assigned by a senior to go and get your guns and you have no say in the matter. Any negative action you take just takes you down a rabbit hole of making things worse and, it’s been proven an uncountable number of times, if more charges can be added to a sheet to justify the ‘confiscation’, they will do it (OK, there are some who take great delight in going for the daily/weekly/all-time station record for who makes the most charges). They’re not all pricks and many are quite decent people.

It is always good to be on speaking terms with police and to not have a hostile situation. You just need to remember that they will be recording the conversation (and, no, they don’t need to inform you that they are) and that excerpts of that recording will be played in a judicial environment that will show you in a bad light.

The police aren’t there to resolve a situation. Their job is to control the situation. There is no reasoning or conversation to discuss what is happening. Anything you say that is of a positive note to help them goes nowhere. Anything you say that comes across as negative add to their case to prove that they weren’t sent on a wild goose chase.

Watch. Your. Words.

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