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What is a firearms prohibition order?

In Victoria, Australia, owning or operating a firearm comes with legal responsibilities. For individuals needing guidance, criminal lawyers in Melbourne offer expertise in navigating this intricate landscape. One of the pivotal aspects of firearm regulations is understanding the Firearms Prohibition Order (FPO). 

Defining the Firearms Prohibition Order

A Firearms Prohibition Order, often abbreviated as FPO, is a legal tool that restricts individuals from acquiring, possessing, using, or carrying firearms. This order doesn't only pertain to the weapons themselves but often extends to firearm parts and ammunition.

Why are FPOs Issued?

Firearms Prohibition Orders (FPOs) represent a proactive approach taken by law enforcement agencies to prevent potential threats and ensure community safety. 

They may be issued for several reasons:

  • History of Violent Behaviour: The most straightforward reason for issuing an FPO is an individual's history of violent actions. This may apply to those with prior convictions or demonstrated violent tendencies, especially involving firearms. 
  • Affiliations with Criminal Organisations: Firearms often play a role in organised crime. Individuals with ties with criminal gangs, syndicates, or other outlawed organisations may be potential threats. Issuing FPOs to these individuals is a preventive measure against organised crime activities and the risks they pose to societal safety.
  • Illegal Firearm Activities: Engaging in unlicensed trading, modifying firearms without permission, or participating in unlawful shooting activities are all grounds for receiving an FPO. 
  • Non-compliance with Firearm Regulations: Beyond explicit criminal activities, a lax attitude towards firearm regulations may lead to an FPO. For instance, repeated failures to store firearms securely, not reporting lost or stolen firearms promptly, or neglecting to renew necessary licences and permits might result in an FPO.

Implications of Receiving an FPO

The ramifications of being served with an FPO are significant:

  • Immediate Relinquishment: The individual must immediately hand over all firearms, parts, and ammunition they own to the police upon receiving an FPO.
  • Search and Seizure Rights: The police are granted the power to search, without a warrant, any premises or vehicle under the control of the person served with the FPO to find and confiscate illegal firearms.
  • Acquisition and Usage Restrictions: Individuals under an FPO are prohibited from acquiring, using, or possessing firearms and related items throughout the order's duration.

Duration and Variability of FPOs

FPOs can differ in length, depending on individual circumstances and the perceived risk level. Some may be short-lived, while others might be indefinite. Periodic reviews can take place to determine the order's continued relevance.

Challenging an FPO

A person has 28 days upon being served with a Firearm Prohibition Order to apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for review of the decision to make the order. Notification of appeals will be sent to the Firearm Prohibition Orders Registry, not the Licensing and Regulation Division.

A Firearm Prohibition Order subject also has the right to apply for a review of the order mid-way through its duration. This means an adult Firearm Prohibition Order subject can apply to VCAT for a review of the order five years after the order was served. A child Firearm Prohibition Order subject, aged 14-17 years, can apply 2 and a half years after the order was served.

A right of review can only be exercised once, so it is critical to be prepared and put your best case forward. 

1. Seeking a Lawyer: Before embarking on the challenge, it's pivotal to engage an experienced criminal lawyer. Firms like Criminal Lawyers Melbourne specialise in this arena and can provide critical guidance on how to navigate the complex legal pathways. Their expertise can help identify potential weaknesses in the issuance of the FPO and strategize the best approach for the challenge.

2. Grounds for Challenge: Identifying valid grounds for the challenge is paramount. Common reasons can include:

  • Insufficient Evidence: Arguing that the evidence used to justify the FPO is either incorrect, misrepresented, or inadequate.
  • Change in Circumstances: Demonstrating that since the issuance of the FPO, there have been significant changes in the individual's circumstances, reducing the perceived threat or risk.
  • Procedural Errors: Administrative or procedural errors may have occurred during the issuance process.

3. Providing Proof: Challenging an FPO is not merely about contestation; it's about presenting a compelling counter-narrative. The individual must supply substantial evidence, be it character references, proof of completed rehabilitation programs, medical records, or any other relevant documents, to strengthen their case.

4. Attending Hearings: The formal challenge typically involves court hearings. Here, both the individual and the issuing authority present their arguments. While the individual argues against the order's necessity or validity, the issuing body defends its decision. Having a seasoned lawyer articulate your case may profoundly affect the outcome.

5. Potential Outcomes: Once both parties present their cases, the court may decide to:

  • Uphold the FPO: The court might deem the FPO necessary, and it remains in place.
  • Vary the FPO: Adjustments can be made to the order's terms based on new evidence or changed circumstances.
  • Revoke the FPO: The court might find the FPO unjustified and decide to remove it altogether.

6. Post-Decision Steps

If the challenge proves successful and the FPO is revoked, it's essential to understand any conditions or stipulations tied to the decision. For instance, the court might require periodic check-ins, attendance to certain programs, or other conditions.

Navigating Firearms Prohibition Orders with Criminal Lawyers in Melbourne

Firearms Prohibition Orders remain essential for law enforcement to ensure that potential threats cannot access firearms. However, they come with built-in checks and balances, granting individuals the right to challenge and appeal. It's vital to consult with seasoned professional criminal lawyers in Melbourne, like Stary Norton Halphen, if confronted with an FPO. Their expertise can offer invaluable insights into these orders and the broader regulatory framework of firearm activities in Victoria.

What is a firearms prohibition order?

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