Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Amendment (Firearms Offences) Bill 2015

5th August 2015

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) [4.44 p.m.]: I will make a brief contribution to the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Amendment (Firearms Offences) Bill 2015 and state my support for the bill. In any reference to firearms in this instance, I am not referring to firearms used for law enforcement, sports or legitimate hunting and rural purposes, but to firearms used as weapons of fear, intimidation and violence. Those who seek to possess and use them for those purposes should receive harsh and unambiguous treatment from our courts. These illegitimate firearms have no place in our communities, and it is an unfortunate fact that there are too many of them within our communities.

This legislation establishes standard non-parole periods for five firearm offences and increases existing standard non-parole periods for two offences relating to the unauthorised possession or use of firearms and prohibited weapons. This is sensible reform that will help guide the courts in bringing down sentences that are appropriate and in line with community expectations. Members may know my view on mandatory sentencing: I am not in favour of it, and I have spoken against it on a number of occasions in this place. Standard non-parole periods offer the court a much better way of determining sentences that reflect adequate penalties for serious crimes but also respecting the need for separation of powers between the judiciary and the Legislature.

The bill introduces standard non-parole periods for five offences. It proposes a period of nine years for discharging a firearm with intent to cause grievous bodily harm or for discharging a firearm with intent to resist arrest or detention. It introduces standard non-parole periods for three categories of crime relating to the discharge of a firearm with reckless disregard for the safety of any other person. It also extends the standard non-parole periods from three to four years for the offence of unauthorised possession or use of a prohibited firearm or pistol under section 7 of the Firearms Act 1996, and from three years to five years for the offence of unauthorised possession or use of a prohibited firearm under section 7 of the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998.

Strong sentences are needed to deter people from unauthorised ownership and use of firearms. It is unfortunate, but that is the case. It is not enough for offenders to claim, after an offence has been committed, that they had no intention of hurting anyone. If someone produces a firearm, the potential for harm is immediate and real. If someone has an unauthorised firearm in his or her possession, a threat exists. This legislation tells unauthorised owners of weapons and would-be offenders that abuse of firearms will not be tolerated, regardless of whether harm is caused or intent to harm can be demonstrated.

The legislation reflects the recommendations of the NSW Sentencing Council, made in its 2013 report on standard non-parole periods. The council took into account the opinions of stakeholders, community views and legal precedent in forming its advice. It also devised and applied consistent methodology to arrive at the recommended sentence periods. In making its recommendations, the Sentencing Council noted in its report that offences of discharging a firearm with reckless disregard carry a special risk, through their nature and the irresponsible circumstances of their commission, of causing harm to innocent members of the community who may become unintended victims of such shootings. Unfortunately there are cases on record of that having occurred.

Firearms offences cause apprehension in the communities in which they are committed and commonly occur in the context of organised crime-related activity. The Sentencing Council noted also that the rate of conviction for these offences is low and disproportionate to their reported frequency in the community. The measures outlined in this legislation will better protect innocent people in the community from indiscriminate use of firearms. They also send a clear message that any unauthorised ownership or use of firearms will be dealt with unequivocally by our courts. I am certain that the residents of Lake Macquarie and our communities more broadly will welcome this legislation. I congratulate the Government on introducing this legislation and commend the bill to the House.

Website: Read full Parliamentary debate

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