Liberty Down Under
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Guns penalty cops broadside
By ROHAN WADE
NATIONAL and state field and game bodies have called on Police Minister David Llewellyn to stop the destruction of guns belonging to a hunter who pleaded guilty to firearms offences.
Both Tasmanian Field and Game Association president Peter Darke and National Field and Game Federation president Cheryl Arnol said the punishment handed out to Robert Wilton was excessive.
Mr Wilton, 38, was fined just $490 after pleading guilty to charges of failing to ensure the safe storage of firearms and ammunition, and possessing a silencer.
But the court also ordered his firearms to be confiscated and destroyed, costing him an estimated $3000.
Mr Wilton, of Wilberville in the Central Highlands, was charged when police inspected his gun safe after his 10-year-old was discovered with a bullet on a school bus.
The case has already raised the ire of pro-firearm groups angry that it appeared to be based on Wilton's gun safe being visible and the key accessible, neither of which is an offence under the Firearms Act.
Mr Darke said he did not see why there was a need to confiscate and destroy Mr Wilton's firearms.
"He has pleaded guilty to a relatively small offence, and the penalty seems too excessive. The court should have the flexibility to not have to take away a person's firearms in these instances," he said.
Mr Darke said the association was heavily in favour of gun safes, and had even introduced the idea of legislating them six months before the Port Arthur massacre in 1996.
But he said the penalty was out of step with other crimes such as drink-driving offences.
"They don't confiscate your car, let alone destroy it. They take your driver's licence away, fair enough too, but you've still got a car," he said.
Ms Arnol said she could not understand why Mr Wilton had to lose his firearms.
"What crime has [Mr Wilton] committed that is so severe that $3000 worth of his property should be destroyed?" she said. A spokesman for Mr Llewellyn, Rod Wallis, said the law did not allow for any discretion in confiscating firearms.
"Once a conviction has been recorded, the court has no discretion and confiscation is mandatory," he said.
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