The Offence of Possessing Ammunition Without a Licence or Permit in New South Wales

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A man has been charged with several firearms offences after police attended his home in the Central Tablelands of New South Wales after receiving reports of a domestic disturbance.

According to police, at around 10.30pm on Sunday, 9th January 2023 officers from Chifley Police District attended a home on Rocket Street in West Bathurst in response to reports of threats of violence.

They conducted a search of the premises and allegedly located two modified (shortened) firearms and ammunition in the ceiling.

They then searched a vehicle parked at the property and allegedly located further ammunition.

A 34-year old man was arrested at the scene and conveyed to Bathurst Police station where he was charged with:

No charges were brought in relation to the supposed domestic disturbance involving threats of violence which police allege justified the search of the man’s premises and car without a warrant; an issue which his defence lawyers are sure to explore, together with whether police are able to establish possession.

The man will face Bathurst Local Court to answer to the allegations.

The offence of possessing ammunition without a licence or permit in New South Wales

Possessing ammunition without a licence or permit is an offence under section 65(3) of the Firearms Act 1996 (NSW).

To establish the offence, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:

  1. You were in possession of ammunition,
  2. You were not the holder of a licence or permit for a firearm that takes the ammunition, and
  3. You did not otherwise hold a permit for the ammunition.

What are the penalties?

The maximum penalty for the offence of unlawfully possessing ammunition is 50 penalty units.

One New South Wales penalty unit is $110 at the time of writing, which means the maximum penalty is currently $5,500.

A conviction for the offence comes with a criminal record, but a prison sentence cannot be imposed.

What is ammunition?

Ammunition is defined as including:

  • Any article consisting of a cartridge case fitted with a primer and a projectile, 
  • Any article consisting of a cartridge case fitted with a primer and containing a propelling charge and a projectile, 
  • Blank cartridges, airgun pellets, training cartridges or gas cartridges, and
  • Anything else that the regulations of the Act may define as ammunition.

What does ‘takes the ammunition’ mean?

The Act states that a firearm ‘take’ the ammunition if the ammunition can be safely fired in the firearm, whether or not that ammunition has the same calibre designation as that of the firearm.

What amounts to possession?

The Act provides that you are in ‘possession’ of a firearm if it is in your custody, or if you have it in the custody of another person, or if it is in or on any premises, place, vehicle, vessel or aircraft, whether or not belonging to or occupied by you. This includes where the firearm is in or on any premises you own, lease or occupy, or that is in your care, control or management.

However, this ‘extended definition of possession’ does not apply to ammunition.

That being so, the general laws relating to possession apply to the offence.

This means the prosecution is required to prove beyond reasonable doubt that you had ‘exclusive possession’ of the ammunition; in other words, it must exclude any reasonable possibility that the ammunition was in the possession, custody or control of someone else living at a premises, or who was using a vehicle, in which the item was found.

What are the defences to the charge?

The Act provides that you are not guilty if your possession arose solely because you were conveying or storing the ammunition in the ordinary course of your duties in the business of a carrier or warehouse operator.

General legal defences also apply to the charge, including:

Self-defence  – which is where you believed your actions were necessary to defend yourself or another person, or to prevent the unlawful deprivation of your liberty or that of another person, or to protect your property from being taken, destroyed, damaged or interfered with, or to prevent criminal trespass to your land, or remove a person criminally trespassing, and your conduct was a reasonable response to the circumstances as you perceived them at the time.

Duress – which is where your conduct arose due to an imminent threat made to you or someone close to you, in circumstances where the threat was continuing and serious enough to justify your actions.

Necessity – which is where you engaged in your actions to avoid serious, irreversible consequences to you or someone you were bound to protect, you honestly and reasonably believed you or the other person were immediate danger and your actions were a reasonable and proportionate response to the danger.

Where you are able to raise evidence of a general legal defence, the onus then shifts to the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defence does not apply in your case.

If the prosecution is unable to do so, you are entitled to an acquittal; in other words, a verdict of not guilty.

Going to court for a firearms offence?

If you have been accused of a firearms offence and are going to court, call Sydney Criminal Lawyers anytime on (02) 9261 8881 for strong representation by an experienced criminal defence team who will explain your options, the best way forward and fight for the optimal outcome in your case.

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Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist with 25 years of experience as a Criminal Defence Lawyer. He is the Principal of Sydney Criminal Lawyers®.

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