Why we’re taking Victoria Police to VCAT

Every now and again there’s a great opportunity for shooters join an important fight for the future of the shooting sports. 

We’ve just found the next one.

Through a series of FOI requests on the Victorian Department of Justice and Regulation and Victoria Police, we are now preparing to take action in VCAT against an underhanded move by Victoria Police to change our gun laws – while using questionable FOI exemptions to keep us in the dark.

Some history…

Herald Sun, 30 March 2016

In March last year, Victoria Police told the Herald Sun that they had provided DOJR with ‘recommendations’ to change our gun laws.

While that was said in the middle of the Adler debate, it also came up ahead of this year’s review of our Firearms Regulations – and after they earlier said our storage and transportation laws weren’t strong enough.

So we put in FOI requests to try and find out what the ‘recommendations’ were.

The responses we received from DOJR and Victoria Police denied in full for the same two reasons.

The first (and most significant) reason given is that the documents are “Cabinet-in-Confidence”.

The second reason given is that the recommendations were working papers (and prone to misinterpretation) or withheld in the public interest.

Limits of Victoria Police’s role and functions

While DOJR can legitimately make some claim about Cabinet confidentiality because of their role within government, the Victoria Police cannot.

That’s because the Victoria Police is a law enforcement agency which does not have a formal role in briefing the Minister.  DOJR has already (and correctly) made that claim; both cannot be right.

The role and functions of Victoria Police are spelt out in sections 8 and 9 of the Victoria Police Act 2013 (the Act) which state:

8  Role of Victoria Police

The role of Victoria Police is to serve the Victorian community and uphold the law so as to promote a safe, secure and orderly society.

9  General functions of Victoria Police

(1) The functions of Victoria Police include the following—
(a) preserving the peace;
(b) protecting life and property;
(c) preventing the commission of offences;
(d) detecting and apprehending offenders;
(e) helping those in need of assistance

Nowhere in the Act does it say anything about liaising with DOJR or advising the minister on firearm laws. S16 does permit the Chief Commissioner to advise the minister on the “operations of Victoria Police and policing matters”, but not policy. Their functions are all about enforcing the law, not making it. Indeed it would be a conflict of interest for them to wear a hat as both a law advisor and law enforcer.

While Victoria Police have a legitimate need to liaise with the minister, they have no statutory responsibility or role to do so on policy.  It is our assertion their communication with the minister on the recommendations was the exercise of a common law right, rather than anything relating to their functions.

It therefore makes it difficult for them to claim a statutory protection for a lobbying role they have no authority to undertake.

Otherwise, everyone – the CFCV included – would be able to claim Cabinet-in-Confidence, which would undermine the integrity of the Cabinet process.

Internal working documents

Victoria Police has also claimed the recommendations are ‘internal working documents’ as part of a deliberative process.  The exemption they refer to requires it to be in the processes of the functions of the agency.

As noted before, we believe the communication of recommendations outside the agency were an exercise of a common law right, rather than anything relating to its (frontline) functions.

In any case the documents were not deliberative, but offering a concluded view.

Victoria Police saw fit to tell the Herald Sun that they wrote to the minister so there was an intention for the existence of the recommendations to be publicly disclosed, making it harder for them to argue that what they did was an “internal” process.

Public interest

The exemption used by Victoria Police extends to refusing to release the documents in the public interest.

We claim that it is IN the public interest to release the documents. That’s because their advice to the Minister for Police fell outside its statutory functions and should enjoy no special privilege for what was a ‘common law’ utterance (legal talk for something they weren’t required to do – but chose to do anyway).

Taxpayers have a right to know what Victoria Police is lobbying government on, and so do shooters who are directly affected by the actions of Victoria Police.

It is also relevant to note that Victoria Police failed to disclose it’s actions to the Firearms Consultative Committee, which was set up as a collaborative forum involving DOJR and the minister’s own office to consider and test policy proposals.

There is no public interest being served in hiding behind this exemption.

What you can do

We’ve got limited time in which to lodge an appeal   We need to make this fight work for two reasons.

Firstly, we want to see the recommendations.

Secondly, we want the role of Victoria Police clarified, as this ‘backdoor’ approach has gone on for too long.

For that we want to hire the right advice.

If you and your fellow shooters reading this can
swing in $20, we’ll put that towards the fight.

Click here to donate to the fight. It’s a fight about law, and the principle behind the way Victoria Police are behaving.

It’ll be the best twenty bucks you’ve spent in a while.  If you don’t have a Paypal account and would still like to donate, click here to check out our donation page for more info, or leave a comment and we’ll get back to you

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Leave a comment ?

26 Comments.

  1. Excellent work Neil and with impeccable timing !

  2. Great post and excellent work. I’m donating. We all should, every single one of us.

  3. Great work! Totally under-handed work by Victoria Police and it is obvious their Senior representatives cannot be trusted. We all need to fight this and donate whatever we can afford.

  4. Is SEV or the Brigadier available to comment ❓ 😎

  5. Good work If we dont stop all this bullshit now it wont be long befor we have no guns at all

  6. I would donate but there is something wrong with the PayPal link.

  7. Oh!

    Sorry about that. I just tried it and it was ok but will keep an eye on it during the day. Here is the link it should work with: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=PS759TGVV5YUS

    Regards

    Neil

  8. Craig Buckingham

    I can see where the police will defend their actions under the current Act.

    Sect 16 – Role of Chief Commissioner
    (2) In particular, and without limiting subsection (1), the Chief Commissioner—

    (b) is responsible for providing advice and information to the Minister on the operations of Victoria Police and policing matters generally; and

  9. Good pick up Craig.

    Yes, I can see they would wheel that one out as well – it’ll then be a debate about how widely or narrowly you view what the ‘operations’ of VicPol etc should be read.

    Looking forward to the fight!

    Regards
    Neil

  10. Well I’m thinking that they are thinking that the minister is a soft touch and can sway her thinking their way
    I sincerely hope not I don’t understand a lot of what happens any more like getting fire wood you cant cut certain logs with hollows in them or moss growing no dragging logs yet they go burn the bush and smoke the valley and city out for weeks go figure that so I reckon your in the same boat

  11. I won’t be putting my password in any linked page.
    How do I find you on PayPal.
    COMBINED FIREARMS COUNCIL OF VICTORIA comes up blank.

  12. Hi Tim

    I’ll have a look at whether I need to change the blog to make the link more prominent, but you’ll find the link at: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=PS759TGVV5YUS

    REgards

    Neil

  13. Good work. I donated hoping that your efforts will set the precedent and remind all law enforcement agencies across Australia of their responsibilities and obligations to the communities they serve. Keep it up, cheers.

  14. Thanks Fongy. This has certainly generated a good and long overdue buzz, so thanks for your donation. It’s going to a great cause which I hope will create similar actions interstate.

    Regards

    Neil

  15. I hive said this to SSAA and to the state and federal minster over 1 year ago and now you decide to do some thing to bloody slow as you are unaware that when you decide to take on suppressers for us members I will help you then as it is a do able case to protect all shooters hearing ect

  16. Thanks Geoff. At this stage this fight is not about any particular law or hardware, but the role of the police more generally. Hope that helps.
    Regards
    Neil

  17. You have no chance and I fail to understand what if anything you would gain from knowing what the Victoria Police have lodged and recommended.
    As has been pointed out with regards to Sect 16. It is part of the role of Vic Pol or the CCI to advice the Minister in all manner of policing generally. It has long been accepted that this includes advising on matters of Law and like where there are perceived shortcomings.

  18. Thanks Antony

    I hear what you say. Out of interest, are you a shooter?

    thanks
    Neil

  19. Dear TJF,
    Sounds like you might get more mileage joining the Alanah & Madeline foundation or even the Greens with an attitude like that towards our sport.

  20. The police may attempt to use section 16 but it won’t stand up to scrutiny because the formulation of policy and or regulations are not policing matters. More on this at the link below:

    http://www.justice.vic.gov.au/home/justice+system/laws+and+regulation/

    In the regulation forming framework, police are just one stakeholder and if they go directly to the minister regarding regulation formation, then as Neil said it is a common law right which should not be protected.

    One thing you need to be wary of is them trying to blur the lines between legal guns and illegal guns used in crime.

  21. Jeff Blackmore

    Just tried to pay with my Visa card and the system told me I had to use another card ?
    Black Duck in Tassie

  22. G’day Black Duck

    Not sure why you would have that problem. Maybe try again? Paypal does accept Visa. Maybe it just doesn’t like yours!?

    Ta
    Neil

  23. Tried it again; still failed ? See below.
    I am not registered for PayPal, nor do I want to be.
    “The card you entered cannot be used for this payment. Please enter a different credit or debit card number.”

  24. Hi again

    Sorry to hear about that! I will ask Paypal if they can figure this out. As an alternative, direct debits can be done to the following account if you prefer: NAB – BSB: 083 152 Acc: 55043 4866 in the name of Combined Firearms Council of Victoria

    Again very sorry about that. Will email Paypal now!

    Regards

    Neil

  25. Hi Jeff

    I heard back from Paypal. It seems some banks don’t allow Paypal to take funds out of their cards, although we also just discussed this directly by email anyway.

    Regards

    Neil

  26. Donated.
    I’m not in Vic but come from Melbourne and understand this is relevant nation widr as far shooting sports are concerned.

    Best of luck.

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