An inconvenient punch-up
A SHOOTER well connected to the Victorian firearms registry appears to have been given special treatment by at least two officers who have been central to another incident we recently reported.
NORTHERN VIC MP, Tim Quilty, recently told the Victorian Parliament about an incident during a pistol event at the Melbourne International Shooting Club in 2018, when a verbal altercation allegedly ended up in one shooter being ‘king hit’ by another shooter from behind.
Fortunately, the quick intervention of other shooters prevented the matter from escalating. The victim of the assault left the range and reported the matter at a nearby police station.
The matter was investigated by local police and the perpetrator was subsequently charged with unlawful assault and other charges.
LET’S GET THIS STRAIGHT. We don’t want or can afford negative publicity. However this is a story about appalling behaviour by a regulator who we are entitled to expect will act fairly and transparently, but acted out of convenience.
Matter goes to Victorian Parliament
In speaking about the incident, Mr Quilty told Parliament:
The individual who threw the punch apparently holds a firearms dealer licence and is well connected at the club. The licensing and regulation division was informed about the incident but took no action. Charges were filed but LRD still took no action. Even when the individual pleaded guilty to the assault LRD took no action.
He also said:
Physical violence at a shooting range between armed individuals is dangerous and reckless.
Shooting has the best safety record of any sport, and there is a reason for that. Shooting organisations and shooters work hard to keep their sport clean. In fact this is the first time we have heard of any conduct of this type at any range, anywhere.
That’s why VicPol’s failure to take action on this is particularly serious.
Victim asks LRD about why it took no action
After the dealer was charged, the victims lawyer wrote to LRD asking why no action had been taken against the dealer.
The response, from Senior Sergeant Andrew Armstrong can be seen here.
Armstrong is the firearms portfolio holder at the registry who was previously named by Mr Quilty in Parliament over missing firearms.
After the dealer was charged the matter went to court where we are told the dealer pleaded guilty and the matter was dealt with by the court system.
Yet despite this, LRD failed to take any action against the dealer’s licence or his conduct.
In his response, Armstrong fobbed the matter off as summary, which is not how they deal with actions against other shooters, such as those who received COVID or traffic fines.
It certainly isn’t how it deals with other dealers who make mistakes in their paperwork – yet it won’t take action on an assault.
Not only that, but if a police officer – armed or not – punched a member of a public, you can bet the matter would not be dealt with in this same way.
Mr Quilty summed his concerns up well by saying:
Generally LRD will enthusiastically cancel firearms licences even when they have no reason to do so. Minister, why don’t LRD believe committing a physical assault while armed disqualifies a firearms licence holder under their fit and proper person test?
An absence of 'conflict of interest' management
Mr Quilty also revealed that Senior Sergeant Armstrong’s subordinate officer, Sergeant Paul Connor (who witnessed the affidavit over the missing guns) allegedly had free use of the clubs’ range and facilities as a biathlon training coach.
We look forward to the Police Ministers written response to Mr Quilty’s questions.
We are not making any allegations or assertions about the club. MISC is a great club with proper controls over it’s members who helped diffuse this situation. Instead, this matter is an assault that the police had full responsibility over – and dismissed as a summary matter.
Formal inquiry into the LRD is needed
This latest case confirms the NSC’s long held view that there are serious problems at the Victorian registry that need to be addressed.
A formal inquiry into LRD, it’s governance arrangements and policies, how it conducts itself and its operations, is long overdue. An inquiry of this type needs to be done independently of both VicPol, and the portfolio minister.
We thank Mr Quilty for his efforts in raising LRD issues and encourage him to continue to ensure LRD becomes accountable, a practice it has successfully avoided for far too long.