Page 489 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 23 March 2022
whether the registrable offender had a reasonable excuse in failing to report. Factors which may be weighed in determining a reasonable excuse include age, disability and sufficiency of notice of reporting obligations.
The bill will also consolidate 18 offences into a single strict liability offence for failure to report. This will simplify the application of the offence provision for both registered offenders and police. When the strict liability offence engages, it may limit an individual’s rights under the Human Rights Act, particularly the right to be presumed innocent in a criminal proceeding. The bill contains safeguards which ensure that the limitation is proportionate and demonstrably justifiable under the ACT human rights framework.
The bill makes another significant amendment to support community safety. The bill aligns the ACT with other jurisdictions in adopting the permanent national firearms amnesty. A firearms amnesty encourages people to surrender firearms which they are not lawfully authorised to possess to police without fear of prosecution. People may be in possession of firearms without a valid licence or permit for a variety of reasons, including through inheritance or where a relevant licence or permit has lapsed. Unregistered firearms, also known as grey market guns, pose a high level of risk to public safety as they cannot be traced.
Temporary amnesties implemented by the ACT government in the past have had the proven effect of removing a large number of unregistered firearms from the community. Between July and November 2021, following the declaration of the most recent temporary amnesty, 443 firearms, 55 firearms parts and 146 kilos of ammunition were surrendered. By explicitly legislating that a person will not face a penalty if they surrender their unregistered firearms to a police officer, it is hoped that more grey guns will be handed in. Complementary to the permanent amnesty amendments, the bill enables voluntarily surrendered firearms to be disposed of or destroyed without the need for a court order. This will assist with minimising the administrative burden on our courts and law enforcement agencies.
Finally, this bill introduces stricter storage obligations for category H firearms in the possession of security companies, in amendments to the Firearms Act 1996 and Firearms Regulation 2008. Appropriately licensed security companies and their employees may possess firearms, including handguns, in the course of their work. Due to their high public visibility, they may be more likely to be targeted for theft than private citizens who possess firearms. Requiring security companies to implement stricter storage conditions will help to minimise the risk of individuals with criminal intent gaining unlawful access to these firearms.
The nature and extent of the additional storage requirements vary in proportion to the number of firearms security organisations are licensed to hold. These stricter standards mirror section 81 of the New South Wales Firearms Regulation, which will help to achieve cross-jurisdictional consistency to aid both police services and security organisations that conduct business across the ACT and New South Wales.
The regulatory framework for gun control in the ACT is strong and will continue to be improved by this government wherever opportunities arise to do so. By taking an