QUEENSLAND POLICE SERVICES NOW CANCELLING MORE FIREARMS LICENCES THAN EVER BEFORE
Recent Changes to QPS Weapons Licensing Unit Guidelines
Since the introduction of new guidelines for the issuing of firearms in Queensland, Potts Lawyers has received a substantial increase in enquiries concerning:
- The cancellation of existing weapons licences; and
- The refusal of new weapons licence applications.
Why is the QPS Weapons Licensing Unit Taking this Approach?
In early 2021, the QPS adopted guidelines which results in automatic cancellation or rejection of firearms licences and applications, respectively. We wrote an article on this topic last year which can be located here: https://pottslawyers.com.au/blog/2022/10/07/strict-guidelines-by-qps-for-weapons-licensing-appeal-weapons-license-refusal/
The guidelines appear to be a response to a report published by the Queensland Audit Office (QAO) which highlighted significant failures and shortcomings in the QPS’s ability to regulate firearms in Queensland, and made several recommendations to the QPS to enhance decision making processes with a greater focus on public safety.
Automatic Rejections: A denial of Procedural Fairness?
Previously, applicants who had ‘no conviction recorded’ for a disqualifying offence within the last 4 years were issued with a show cause letter, providing them with an opportunity to explain why they are still a fit and proper person to hold a firearms licence.
Today, that same individual would likely receive an automatic rejection letter.
The same applies to:
- Anyone who unknowingly or deliberately provides false or misleading information on the weapons licence application forms;
- Individuals with 3 or more drink driving, unlicenced driving, or dangerous driving offences;
- Anyone with 2 or more drug driving offences;
- Anyone with more than 30 demerit points on their traffic history in the last 5 years;
- Anyone who has had a domestic violence order made against them where there was an allegation of physical violence (even if the person consents to the order without any admissions of acting physically violent).
What happens when you receive a rejection letter?
The only way to challenge a decision to suspend, revoke, or reject a firearms licence, is to file an application for review in QCAT.
Anyone who receives a letter from the QPS notifying them of such an adverse decision, should immediately contact a lawyer experienced in weapons licensing matters, if they want to challenge that decision within the limitation period for review.
Whilst it is possible that persuasive legal submissions might convince the QPS to reconsider their decision, these occasions are very rare and it is still recommended that you first preserve your limitation period by filing an application for review with QCAT.
Filing an Application for Review in QCAT
To challenge a decision made by the QPS in relation to your firearms licence, you will need to file an application for review within 28 days of receiving the notice from the QPS.
If you fail to file your application in the prescribed manner, you will likely be unable to have the decision reviewed.
What can QCAT do?
In Weapons Licensing matters, QCAT has the power to either:
- Confirm the original decision made by the QPS;
- Set aside the decision, and replace it with a new decision; or
- Set aside the decision, and send the matter back to the QPS for them to reconsider (however this power is exercised less frequently than the first two powers).
QCAT Review Process
QCAT has recently published revised guidelines on how Weapons Matters are dealt with, as set out in a recent practice direction published in 2022.
Importantly, after you have filed your application for review, the Weapons Licensing branch of the QPS are required to provide a copy of all materials relied upon by the Authorised Officer in making the decision to suspend, revoke, or reject the licence or application.
At the first directions hearing, the Tribunal will make additional directions in relation to procedural matters concerning the filing of materials and submission, any further hearings on ancillary issues, and the final hearing.
At the final hearing, both parties will make submissions, present evidence, and cross examine relevant witnesses, after which the Tribunal will usually make the correct and preferrable decision when considering all relevant materials.
Preparing Your Evidence
The process of preparing your evidence in response to the QPS materials is a critical step in this process, since QCAT hearings a ‘de novo’ hearings which allow the Tribunal to consider any new materials which may not have been available to the original decision maker.
In other words, the Tribunal will not be limited to the evidence which was before the authorised officer who originally made the decision, and an applicant will have an opportunity to present fresh evidence.
A majority of this evidence will be in the form of affidavit materials from the applicant or licence holder, relevant character referees, and sometimes even experts who can provide evidence on the applicant or licence holder’s health or risk of reoffending.
Why Choose Potts Lawyers?
Potts Lawyers assists its clients in all aspects of Weapons Licensing decisions and QCAT reviews.
The process of preparing your evidence in reply to the materials produced by the QPS is an intricate and time-consuming process that is often difficult for anyone who is not legally trained.
Engaging a lawyer experienced in weapons licensing matters will give you a significant advantage, since all of the evidence you produce will need to address:
- the QPS’s concerns;
- the relevant considerations under the Weapons Act; and
- the factors which the Tribunal should consider when applying those considerations, which have slowly evolved over time in common law (case law).
Since gathering your evidence is such an important step of the review process, the decision to engage a lawyer can make the difference between QCAT affirming the QPS decision (losing your case) or making a new decision in your favour.
Potts Lawyers are experienced in assisting Queensland’s firearms dealers and licensees in relation to all aspects of firearms licences, including all notices, show cause letters, suspensions, revocations, and rejection made by the QPS.
Potts Lawyers recognise that many individuals rely on their weapons licence for their livelihood (such as primary producers or those working in the security industry), or as an important form of social interaction at their local rifle or pistol clubs.
In the face of increasingly strict firearms guidelines which have deprived weapons licence holders and applicants of procedural fairness in the first instance, Potts Lawyers stands ready to assist Queensland’s responsible firearms owners and dealers.
It is critically important that you obtain independent legal advice as soon as possible.
You can contact our firm on (07) 5532 3133 to speak with one of our firm’s experienced criminal lawyers.