A TRIBUNAL has overturned a NSW Police decision to refuse a firearm licence to a man who turned himself into Raymond Terrace police station in 2012 because he heard voices telling him to harm his partner.
The man, who spent one week in a Mater Hospital mental health ward in 2012 after walking from his home to the police station in the early hours of the morning to report the voices, was later diagnosed and treated for borderline personality disorder.
NSW Police in 2017 refused his application to hold a licence to own firearms including shotguns. It was refused again after an internal review.
Police argued there was too much uncertainty about the man’s mental health to be satisfied there was “virtually no risk to public safety”. The man has a new partner and children.
But the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal on Thursday accepted a clinical psychologist’s finding that the man presented no greater risk to the public than any other person who possessed firearms. This was despite acknowledging that borderline personality disorder is “pervasive and enduring by nature” and the possibility of relapse could not be eliminated.
The tribunal was told the man had no history of violence and had not come to police attention since walking into Raymond Terrace police station in December, 2012 seeking urgent help because of thoughts of harming his partner.
The man told the tribunal his then partner had been violent towards him and he was “becoming increasingly concerned he might physically retaliate”.
The psychologist was “convinced (the man) has genuinely recovered from his acute episode in 2012 and has benign motivation for acquiring his firearms licence”NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal
He said he told police he had been hearing voices telling him to harm his partner but in evidence to the tribunal denied hearing voices. He said he told police about voices to ensure he was taken to a hospital.
He was treated for borderline personality disorder between June, 2013 and February, 2015. The psychologist told the tribunal the disorder was characterised by a pattern of instability in personal relationships, marked impulsive behaviour, intense anger and paranoia or suicidal feelings.
But the man showed no evidence of the disorder and was polite and open during his interview, the psychologist said.
The psychologist was “convinced (the man) has genuinely recovered from his acute episode in 2012 and has benign motivation for acquiring his firearms licence”, the tribunal found.
“However, he could not rule out the possibility of a relapse in the future.”
The tribunal said the psychologist’s proposal for a six month or yearly psychological review was unworkable because police would have no way of knowing if the man was complying with the condition.
The tribunal also rejected a police proposal for the man to undertake as many psychological assessments as necessary until a psychologist was prepared to say he presented virtually no risk to the public.
“While I agree with the NSW Police Force submission that there could be extended periods where the man has unfettered access to firearms while his mental health status is unknown, this also applies to any holder of a firearms licence,” the tribunal found.
The man was granted a firearm licence without conditions.