What the Law Says about Possessing, Supplying or Making a Pipe Bomb in NSW

By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.


Last week, a pipe bomb was discovered in Mullumbimby in the far north coast of New South Wales, forcing a number of buildings to be evacuated and the members of the public to avoid the area.

It is reported that just after 7am on 19 September 2019, a local shop owner stumbled across the suspicious object in a laneway behind the local Commonwealth Bank branch.

Police set up a 200m exclusion zone around the Byron Shire Council Chambers, claiming the object looked “like an improvised explosive device”, while urging people to avoid Burringbar Street and Station Street.

Bomb disposal experts from Sydney were then called to the area to defuse the pimp bomb, which was found to be eight centimetres in length.

Additional resources, including a rescue unit, were also sent to the Mullumbimby scene.


Specialist Bomb Disposal Unit Deem Device Safe

Following an examination by the specialist bomb disposal unit, the device was deemed safe, with their investigations revealing the device did not have the capacity to detonate.

Authorities assured locals the pipe bomb was not a risk and lifted the exclusion zones, opening the area to the public once more.

Local detectives have commenced an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident.

The object was then taken away for forensic examination.


Detective Chief Inspector on Hunt for Offender; Warns Public of Pipe Bombs

Meanwhile, Detective Chief Inspector Luke Arthurs warned that the offender will be identified.

“We will get the device forensically examined and we will continue viewing CCTV footage in town here and we will try to identify the offender,” Detective Chief Inspector Arthurs said.

At the initial stages of the inquiry, Inspector Arthurs believed the bomb was real.

He also advised the public to be aware of what a pipe bomb could look like.

“This happens everywhere in Australia; these things happen and that’s the way of the world at the moment.

“What we’ve got to do is best practice and seize it in accordance of our policies and procedures and make sure no one was injured.”

Local shop owner, Mark Thomas, who discovered the device near his store, said it looked like a metal pipe, capped either end with “circuit-board-looking stuff and a switch”.

“I couldn’t see it properly so I rolled it over, ‘Oh yeah, looks like someone has made a bomb for Halloween but, you know, could be real so better call the police’, and so here we are,” Mr Thomas said.


What is a Pipe Bomb and How Does it Work?

In simple terms, a pipe bomb is an explosive device that relies on the pressure of a strong container – in this case, a pipe – to magnify the potency of the explosive substances inside it.

The pipe then keeps the explosion contained until it reaches a significant pressure, which in turn has the potential to create a destructive eruption.

A study in the Forensic Science International Journal describing the anatomy of a pipe bomb explosion including the effect of explosive filler and container material on device fragmentation shows how the mechanical properties of different piping material under various conditions can predict the behaviour of pipe bombs.

Pipe bombs are the most common type of improvised explosive device found in the United States.

They are easy and inexpensive to make given their mechanisms are obtainable at hardware shops and information on bomb construction straightforwardly found on the internet.


Possessing, Supplying or Making a Pipe Bomb Penalties Guide in NSW

The maximum punishment is 5-years prison for possessing an explosive in a public place pursuant to section 93FA (1) Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

The maximum punishment is 3 years and/or $5,500 fine for either possessing, supplying or making an explosive (whether or not it is in a public place) if there is a reasonable suspicion that he/she did not do it for a lawful purpose (section 93FA(2) Crimes Act 1900 (NSW)).

A public place includes parks, beaches, and shopping centres or laneways.

It is a defence to this charge if you possessed or made an explosive for a reasonable excuse or lawful purpose. This can include demolition purposes, festivals or cultural or sporting events or art purposes.

As per clause 4 of the Explosives Regulation 2013, an explosive is understood as an “article or substance, when manufactured, mixed or assembled, can cause an explosive or pyrotechnic effect”.

It also includes dangerous goods of Class 1 within the meaning of ADG Code or the Australian Explosives Code, or goods too dangerous to be transported that can produce an explosive or pyrotechnic effect (within the meaning of the ADG Code or the Australian Explosives Code).


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