A Eurobodalla Shire man is appealing to have his firearms licence reinstated after a four-year paper war with authorities over the confiscation of his weapons.
Doug Pearson, of Dalmeny, said his firearms were confiscated in 2013, after he volunteered information to NSW authorities regarding a mental health referral.
Mr Pearson said he was required to undergo a psychiatric examination as part of an ongoing compensation dispute with a former employer – a NSW government department.
He said his former employer’s legal team insisted on the examination, which he reported to the NSW Firearms Registry in 2012. His licence was subsequently suspended.
Five weapons were confiscated on May 31, 2013, and Mr Pearson’s efforts since to have his licence reinstated have failed.
I certainly expected to get my guns back- Doug Pearson
His appeal came before the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal on December 12, 2017. Police have been asked to document by December 22 their reasons for refusing to reinstate his licence.
Mr Pearson has been engaged in a war of words with the NSW Police Department and the registry, after his weapons were transferred from a storage facility to a third party.
He requested police send the weapons to the facility to prevent deterioration. He signed an authority for the transfer, but maintains he did not relinquish ownership.
“I certainly expected to get my guns back,” he said.
However, he said the weapons were subsequently given or sold to a third party without his permission and then registered to a new owner.
Mr Pearson has written on numerous occasions to the NSW Police Department, the registry and relevant ministers regarding his concerns. He has also lodged several applications under the Government Information Public Access Act for information on his case.
Mr Pearson maintains the process leading up to the confiscation was flawed, as was the subsequent disposal of his weapons.
“I think the general public would be appalled that a solicitor from an insurance company … can trigger a health referral that impacts across your entire life,” he said.
“I have done nothing for 20 years except follow procedures.”
However, in a 12-page review of the registry’s refusal to reissue Mr Pearson with a firearms licence, the adjudicator and delegate for the NSW Police Commissioner concluded the correct decision was made.
“Despite your lengthy prior history with firearms, and your lack of any criminal matters or demonstrated character issues, I am satisfied that public risk has not been eliminated regarding your access to firearms,” the report said.
“You have never been charged with any criminal offence, nor have you been issued with any Apprehended Violence Orders. Your good character is not in question; you were authorised for firearms for nearly 20 years under past and current legislation without any incident or accident involving misuse of firearms.”
The report acknowledged the initial licence was issued in 1998 for the “genuine reason of Recreational Hunting/Vermin Control” and that police had twice inspected and approved Mr Pearson’s safekeeping provisions for his weapons. However, police raised concerns in May 2013 about Mr Pearson’s fitness to hold a licence.
“Police found it clearly apparent you were suffering high levels of anxiety and stress over ongoing legal issues with the (department),” the report said.
The adjudicator said Mr Pearson had previously admitted to “attempting self-harm involving a motorcycle” – an interpretation Mr Pearson denies.
The report said a GP had in 2013 advised Mr Pearson had an “adjustment disorder with depression and anxiety, and some obsessive/compulsive and emotional avoidance personality complaints”. However, the GP advised “your obsessive traits are likely to lead to extreme caution and exact handling of firearms”.
The GP believed Mr Pearson was fit to hold a licence, but referred him for psychological assessment. However the adjudicator said the pyschologist noted “reactive moods and anger management issues involving anger suppression” and difficulty “moving on emotionally”.
After reviewing his files, a psychiatrist also reported Mr Pearson had admitted punching on occasion, “out of frustration with your circumstances”, a fence or verandah of his former workplace. The psychiatrist however noted Mr Pearson had been married for 32 years “in a loving and supportive relationship”.
Several professionals had diagnosed Mr Pearson with depression at different periods.
The adjudicator reported police held “extreme fears in relation to your access to firearms”, and officers believed he had “an irrational thought process” and an obsession with having his firearms returned”.
The adjudicator said Mr Pearson’s long-term dispute with his former employer had “clearly involved you in extremely stressful conflict that has seriously affected your mental and physical wellbeing … the lengthy and ongoing nature of that impact on your mental health leaves it open to conclude the possibility for risk with firearms exists”. The Firearms Act 1996 says the Commissioner can refuse a licence in the public interest.
The tribunal has listed a hearing for February 8, 2018.
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