The graduated response means Police will have more options between issuing a licence holder with a warning and undertaking licence revocation. The new process will allow a licence holder to make improvements so Police do not have to initiate licence revocation as the first available response to non-compliance, or poor or unsafe behaviour. This applies to both those holding a firearms licence and those with endorsements on their firearms licence and dealers’ licences.
If a member of Police reasonably believes that a person is failing, or is likely to fail, to comply with one or more provisions of the Arms Act or associated regulations; or any conditions on a licence, endorsement, or permit, they can issue the licence holder with an Improvement Notice (s60).
The person must comply with the notice within the time specified, or face possible suspension and revocation of their licence or endorsement. Police may provide an extension of time for the person to remedy or prevent the failing.
Health practitioner reports
Health practitioners must consider notifying Police as soon as practicable where they have been consulted by, or about, a person they know or have reason to believe holds a firearms licence and the practitioner is of the opinion that the health condition of the person is such that they:
- should not be permitted to use or possess a firearm; or
- should only be permitted to use or possess a firearm subject to limitations (s91).
If the practitioner notifies Police of such an opinion, they must provide the grounds on which it is based, and whether the practitioner believes the person poses an immediate (or imminent) danger of self-harm or harm to others.
Following the notification Police may require the licence holder to undergo a further assessment by a second health practitioner, who is independent of the practitioner who provided the initial assessment. The licence holder must comply, or surrender their licence.
A practitioner is not liable to criminal, civil, or disciplinary proceedings by disclosing personal information in the course of performing any function or responsibility under section 91 as long as the practitioner acts in good faith.
Temporary suspension of licence
Police may, by written notice to a firearms or dealer’s licence holder, temporarily suspend their licence if (section 60A):
- The licence holder is not a fit and proper person to possess any firearm or airgun, including where:
- The holder has refused to secure arms items or ammunition in the person’s possession; or
- The holder has failed to comply with any of the conditions imposed on their licence; or
- The holder has failed to comply with an improvement notice issued under s60; or
- The member of Police is satisfied on the basis of a notice given under s91 by a health practitioner; or
- The licence has been seized under s18 of the Search and Surveillance Act 2012 (warrantless searches associated with arms); or
- If, in the case of a dealer’s licence, the person is not a fit and proper person to hold a dealer’s licence; or
- Access to any firearm or airgun in the holder’s possession is reasonably likely to be obtained by a person whose application for a licence has been refused, suspended, revoked, or who is not a fit and proper person.
A notice of temporary suspension must state:
- the ground on which the notice is given, the licence the notice applies to and the date on which the suspension begins (if the person also holds a dealer licence, their dealer licence will also be suspended while their firearms licence is suspended; and
- that the suspension is to enable Police to consider revoking the licence on that ground; and
- that the licence holder may make oral or written submissions by a day which, in the opinion of the Police, gives the holder reasonable time to prepare and make submissions; and
- that the suspension lasts 90 days or until notice of the licence revocation decision is given to the holder, whichever is less; and
- the effect of the notice is the holder is treated as not holding the licence until the licence revocation decision is given to the holder; and
- the holder may be committing an offence if the holder carries on any activity that requires the holder to be licensed; and
- the holder may be required immediately, or before a specified date, to surrender to Police the holder’s licence and the arms items and ammunition in the holder’s possession.
Effect of temporary suspension
While a firearms licence is temporarily suspended (section 60B and 60C):
- any member of Police, at any time after, may require the licence holder to immediately surrender the licence, arms items and ammunition
- the Arms Act applies as if the holder were not licensed to possess any arms item or ammunition under the suspended licence or any endorsement on it
- where the licence suspended is a dealer’s licence, the Arms Act applies as if the holder were not authorised to carry on any dealer activity, and an employee of the holder may not carry on any dealer activity for the holder
- if the holder fails to surrender the arms items concerned (as required by a notice under section 60A), a member of Police may seize and take possession of any arms item or ammunition in the possession or under the control of the holder
- if a person’s firearms licence is suspended, and the person holds a dealer’s licence, the dealer’s licence is automatically suspended for the period the firearms licence suspension is in effect.
Revocation of suspended licence
A member of Police may revoke a suspended firearms licence if they have considered any submissions made by the licence holder and they are satisfied that the licence should be revoked on the grounds set out in the notice of suspension (s27C). If at any stage a licence holder becomes a disqualified person, their licence will be immediately revoked (s27B).
Similarly, a dealer licence that has been temporarily suspended maybe revoked after consideration of submissions if a commissioned officer of Police is satisfied that the licence should be revoked on the stated grounds (s9A).
Right of review of licensing decisions
There are changes to the right of appeal section.
The main change is if a decision is made to refuse a person a firearms licence, or to revoke a person’s firearms licence, that person may first apply to the Commissioner of Police for a review of the decision (s62). They can also appeal the decision to the District Court, provided they have first applied to the Commissioner for a review and received the Commissioner’s decision on that review (s62B(2)).