John Edwards inquest: Gun registry failures revealed

John Edwards inquest: Gun registry failures revealed
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A senior supervisor at the NSW Firearms Registry has admitted there was a “complete failure” to identify John Edwards’ pattern of domestic violence before the killer dad was granted a gun licence.

The stunning admission came after two days of evidence from gun registry clerks who had “no specific training” on domestic violence and many of whom thought it was somebody else’s job to do an extensive police database check.

Edwards’ licence was ultimately approved by a clerk who was only acting in the required authority level at the time, the inquest heard.

Edwards murdered his two children Jack, 15, and Jennifer, 13, at the northwest Sydney home they shared with their mother Olga on July 5, 2018. He then drove home and killed himself.

Olga took her own life five months later.

An inquest before state coroner Teresa O’Sullivan is considering how John was able to legally buy five guns, among them the Glock pistol he used to kill Jack and Jennifer.

When Edwards was being considered for a licence by the NSW Firearms Registry in mid-2017, his police database record included 18 incidents, 15 of them related to apprehended violence orders, stalking and assault allegations and domestic disputes.

His applications for a commissioner’s permit, and then a rifle and pistol licence were handled by seven clerks in total before being approved.

All of their names have been suppressed by the court.

Their supervisor agreed on Wednesday there had been a “complete failure to appreciate a pattern of domestic violence going back 20 years” when it came to Edwards.

The clerk who ultimately granted his licences looked at an automated report that pulled some, but not all, of his police record from the database, showing three AVO applications from ex-partners and one from an adult child.

The clerk also had access to the wider police database, but records show she did not access every event.

Records show she read through three incidents before granting the rifle licence.

One was an AVO application made by Edwards, in which Olga’s lawyer was his alleged aggressor.

Another was an argument between Edwards and Olga where police were called.

And the third a police report Edwards made in early 2016 claiming Olga would make false allegations against him to succeed in their family court proceedings.

The supervisor agreed the clerk had picked the “absolutely least relevant” events to focus on and in doing so had bypassed AVOs and alleged assaults that were available to her.

“Does that not strike you as really an extraordinary way to approach this application?” counsel assisting the coroner Kate Richardson SC asked the supervisor.

“Based on face value, yes,” she replied.

For the pistol licence, the records show the same clerk again accessed Edwards’ family court proceedings claim, this time twice.

She also looked at a wider range of other incidents for the licence, including AVOs and a report where Olga alleged Edwards had assaulted their kids.

The clerk should have noticed the pair were in the middle of an “acrimonious and difficult” divorce and had a “heightened sense of risk” about the application, the supervisor agreed.

Earlier on Wednesday, the supervisor said she herself would probably have granted Edwards the gun licence based on the information available at the time.

He had previously been refused a licence in 2010 as he had been subject to an AVO, taken out by an ex-partner from 2000-2003, in the previous 10 years.

A number of clerks who handled his 2017 application were fixated solely on checking if the 2000-2003 AVO still fell into the past 10 years, the inquest heard.

The rest of his record was mainly comprised of reports to police that didn’t result in any charges, and interim and provisional AVOs.

The senior supervisor said she did not have the database record in front of her, but if the AVO had expired in 2003 and Edwards was applying in 2017, then she would have likely granted the licence too.

“Obviously hindsight, it’s a wonderful thing, we’ve all been quite traumatised by what happened,” she said.

“But based on the information at that time, and things have changed since then, I probably would have granted the licence as well.”

She agreed that no red flag was placed on Edwards’ licence after the 2010 licence refusal and it should have been.

The inquest continues.



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