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Poppy Morandin.

The NSW Joint Counter Terrorism Team has charged a 26-year-old Orange man after allegedly possessing a digital blueprint to manufacture a firearm.

The arrest comes after an investigation into the importation of firearm components by an individual alleged to support ‘ideologically motivated violent extremism’.

The man is alleged to have had the blueprint on his mobile phone, which was discovered by officers executing a search warrant on his residence.

Possessing a blueprint for the manufacture of a firearm on a 3D printer or on an electronic milling machine carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment, as stated in section 51F of the Firearms Act 1996 (NSW).

It is also reported that the man imported legally obtained items that were to be used to manufacture firearms over the past 14 months.

The investigation begun when Australian Border Force officers intercepted a package addressed to an Orange residence, containing a firearm component.

As part of this ongoing investigation, a 31-year-old Orange man was also served with a Firearms Prohibition Order.

“Police continue to uncover evidence of all types of illicit firearms, including homemade firearms, which are often crudely manufactured or assembled.” commented NSW Police Force Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics Command’s Detective Superintendent Mick Sheehy.

“These types of firearms add another layer of risk in terms of the safety of the community as they are unstable, and many are unable to maintain integrity once fired. We will not hesitate to take action if we believe there is a possibility that a firearm could land in the wrong hands.” he continued.

Firearm Prohibition Orders in NSW

Since the introduction of Firearm Prohibition Orders up until December 2020, around 6,357 have been issued across NSW.

The Local Government Areas in which the most orders have been served include Bankstown (304), Cumberland (287) and Fairfield (287).

A Firearm Prohibition Order (‘FPO’) is an order made by the Commissioner of the New South Wales Police that prohibits a person from bearing a firearm, firearm parts or ammunition.

A police officer of any rank may nominate a person for an FPO, as well as sworn and non-sworn staff of the NSW Firearms Registry.

There is no set criteria for those who are subject to FPOs, subject to the person being deemed not fit, in the public interest, to have possession of a firearm.

A firearms prohibition order takes effect when a police officer serves a copy of the order personally on the person against whom it is made.

It also may be revoked at any time, for any or no stated reason.

If a person who is subject to a FPO acquires, possesses, or uses a firearm, they face a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment if the firearm is a pistol or prohibited firearm, or 5 years imprisonment in any other case.

The above penalties are also applicable if a person acquires or possesses a firearm part, with the higher end applicable if the part relates solely to any kind of pistol or prohibited firearm.

In the case of acquiring or possessing ammunition, the maximum penalty is 5 years imprisonment.

Prohibited firearms include self-loading or pump-action shotguns, machine guns or sub-machine guns, and firearms capable of discharging liquid, powder, gas, chemicals, flares, or dye.

FPOs provide police with what was dubbed by then NSW Police Commissioner, Andrew Scipione as ‘extraordinary powers’.

Pursuant to section 74A of the Firearms Act, a police officer may:

  • detain a person who is subject to a firearms prohibition order,
  • enter any premises occupied by or under the control or management of such a person, or
  • stop and detain any vehicle, vessel or aircraft occupied by or under the control or management of such a person.

They can also conduct a search of the person, or of the premises, vehicle, vessel, or aircraft, for any firearms, firearm parts or ammunition.

Such searches must only be conducted if they are ‘reasonably required’ to check whether a person subject to a FPO has committed an offence by breaching certain prohibitions imposed by the order.

However, the Firearms Act 1996 does not define the term ‘reasonably required’.

Therefore, this section largely removes the need for officers to obtain a warrant before exercising a search or suspect on reasonable grounds that the person is in possession of a firearm.

If served with an FPO, the subject has within 28 days from the date of service of the FPO to file a written request for an internal review of the decision.

A member of the NSW Police Force who is not involved in the making of the relevant FPO will internally review the decision and determine whether the FPO will continue or be revoked.

Reasons are required to be provided to the subject if it is determined that the FPO will continue.

If an internal review is unsuccessful, an application may be made to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a further review of the decision.

However as outlined in the clause 5 of the Firearms Regulation 2006, the Tribunal is unable to review a decision if the subject:

  • has been convicted in the last 10 years of certain offences prescribed offences, including serious drug, firearms, sexual or violent offences,
  • is subject to an apprehended violence order (AVO) or has been subject to one in the last 10 years,
  • is subject to a good behaviour bond, or
  • is registered on the Child Protection Registry.

The NSW Ombudsman conducted a review of the legislation in 2015, which analysed data from 1 November 2013 to 31 October 2015.

It found that almost all FPO subjects (90%) had at some point had an alleged link to an organised crime group or gang recorded in their law enforcement history.

The report also found that whilst 642 searches were conducted in this timeframe, none resulted in police finding a firearm, and only eight resulted in finding ‘unlawful objects’ including ammunition and prohibited drugs.

Published on 19/09/2021

AUTHOR Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia

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