John Edwards inquest: Gun registry staffers ignored domestic violence incidents

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An inquest into how the evil dad who stalked and shot his two kids got a gun licence has revealed troubling insights into the NSW registry.

But several NSW Firearms Registry officers who had his application land on their desk at one stage or another did not do a complete police check because they thought it was somebody else’s job, an inquest heard on Tuesday.

One officer agreed that if she had clicked one button to see Edwards’ entire police record it would have rung “extreme alarm bells”.

Another said that in mid-2017 “we just did not look into things as closely as we do now”.

Edwards gunned down his 15-year-old son Jack and 13-year-old daughter Jennifer as they cowered under a desk at the northwest Sydney home they shared with their mother Olga on July 5, 2018.

He then drove home and killed himself.

The brutal and cruel murders were committed in the wake of bitter Family Court proceedings.

The mother, consumed with grief, took her own life five months later.

Edwards killed his children with a Glock pistol, one of five guns he had a permit for at the time.

Camera IconEdwards killed his children with a legally-owned Glock pistol, one of five guns he had a permit for at the time. Image: Supplied. Credit: News Corp Australia

An inquest in the NSW Coroner’s Court is considering how Edwards was approved for a gun licence in mid-2017 despite a long history of domestic violence.

At the time he applied, he had 18 incidents listed on his record in the COPS police database, 15 of them involving either apprehended violence orders, allegations of stalking or assault, or relationship breakdowns.

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He had also been refused a gun license in 2010 because he had been subject to a violence order in the previous 10 years.

This meant in 2016 he had to apply for a special commissioner’s permit before he could undergo safety training at a gun club, then go on to get a licence.

His applications for the permit and licence were handled by several registry staff members, four of whom appeared before the inquest on Tuesday.

All of their names have been suppressed by the court.

Camera IconOlga Edwards reported to police that her husband has assaulted her two children, but the incident wasn’t opened in an initial gun registry check. Image: Supplied Credit: Supplied

Officer A told the inquest she was responsible for performing a police database check before Edwards was granted the commissioner’s permit.

There was no written guidance at the time about how this check should be performed, the inquest heard.

Officer A agreed she had scrolled past a number of incidents with titles including “domestic violence: no offence”, “child/young person at risk” and “apprehended violence order: interim” without clicking through to find out more about them before she marked Edwards as “ok” to proceed.

One of the incidents was a December 2016 police report made by Olga alleging three instances of assault against Jack and Jennifer.

Camera IconOlga Edwards reported allegations of John assaulting their children to police in December 2016. Credit: News Corp Australia, Brett Costello

Officer A said there was a lack of training and time pressures that made it difficult to do a thorough job.

“There was pressure to get things done. There wasn’t enough staff or resources,” she said.

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The officer also said she thought her job was just to find the AVO that had led to the 2010 refusal and check it had expired, not to do a thorough database check.

But a different officer, who actually made the decision on the permit, assumed Officer A had done the check, said counsel assisting the coroner Kate Richardson SC.

That permit was just the first step. After Edwards completed gun safety training at a rifle club and pistol club, he returned to the registry to get his licence proper.

His application for a rifle licence landed on the desk of Officer B, who said she also believed her job was just to check on the 2010 AVO refusal.

She did not click on the link in the COPS database that would have revealed Edwards’ history of domestic violence, instead only looking at the AVO tab.

Officer B agreed this gave an “extremely distorted” view of Edwards in terms of his suitability for a gun licence.

She agreed that the only reason his application did not raise “extreme alarm bells” was because she hadn’t clicked the link.

Camera IconAn inquest has heard how gun registry officers thought it was someone else’s job to do a proper database check. Credit: News Corp Australia

After Edwards’ rifle licence application was approved by Officer B, it underwent a check against a national criminal database by a different person, and then went to Officer C for a “genuine reasons” check.

Officer C told the inquest he thought it was Officer B’s job to do the full COPS database check.

“It would not come to me with anything adverse attached to it,” he said.

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Edwards wrote “hunting club” as the reason for needing the rifle licence, but his genuine reasons form was not signed by a club official.

Officer C could not say if the registry had received any other documentation to verify Edwards’ claim.

Officer C approved both the rifle and pistol licence for issue in the internal database.

He said by doing this he did not grant the licence, but sent them through for another “full background” check before they would be issued.

Camera IconEdwards had written “hunting club” as the reason for needing the rifle licence, the inquest heard. Image: Supplied. Credit: Supplied

None of the people who appeared before the inquest on Tuesday were part of that final step.

The inquest has previously heard an automated report generated from the police database was considered by the registry before the gun licences were granted, but it missed a number of incidents from Edwards’ history.

None of the registry staff were able to explain why the licence applications passed through so many people, each of them undertaking a small part of the check.

“Did it occur to you at the time that was really an inefficient process that might lead to gaps where everybody’s doing a bit of the job?” Ms Richardson asked Officer B.

“No,” she replied.

Each officer also said they had received little or no training in their role prior to the murders.

In the past two years, Officer C said, he had received more training.

Asked to describe it, he said: “It involved training in a training room with a training person and going through different training scenarios.”

The inquest continues.

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About the author

Mary  Woods

Mary  Woods

Mary Woods is very close to TV programs and series and spend his most of the time on the TV screen and rest on writing blogs from those serials to TheNewsPocket. And make you updated about every single update in this section.

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