Gun registry’s shocking act
A gun registry officer scrolled past several domestic violence incidents in a police database before giving a dad who went on to murder his children the green light for the next step of getting a gun licence.
"Back then we just did not look into things as closely as we do now," the NSW Firearms Registry officer said on Tuesday at an inquest investigating the shocking crime.
John 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. Olga, consumed with grief, took her own life five months later.
Edwards killed his children with a legally-owned Glock pistol, one of five guns he had a permit for at the time.
An inquest underway in the NSW Coroner's Court is considering how Edwards obtained a gun licence in mid-2017 despite a long history of domestic violence.
He had previously been refused a gun license in 2010, because he had been subject to an AVO in the previous ten years.
This meant when he again wanted a licence in late 2016 there were a number of steps: He had to apply for a special commissioner's permit before he could undergo safety training at a gun club, and then go on to get a licence.
Before he was granted a commissioner's permit for that first step, he underwent a police check.
The inquest heard that Edwards had 18 incidents listed on his record in the COPS police database at the time of the check, 15 of them involving either apprehended violence orders, allegations of stalking or assault, or relationship breakdowns.
A gun registry staff member whose name is suppressed told the inquest on Tuesday she was responsible for performing that initial check, but did not make the decision granting the permit.
The officer, who is a civilian staffer and not a member of NSW Police, agreed she had scrolled past a number of domestic violence incidents without clicking through to find out more about them as she considered Edwards' application.
The headline text she would have scrolled past in the database included "domestic violence - no offence", "child/young person at risk" and "apprehended violence order - interim" the inquest heard.
One of the incidents was a December 2016 police report made by Olga alleging three instances of assault against Jack and Jennifer.
The officer said she thought the limit of her role was to find the AVO granted in 2000 to one of Edwards' ex-partners to see if it fell in the past 10 years.
There was no written guidance at the time about how the checks should be performed, the firearms registry told the inquest.
A second registry staffer who actually made the decision on the permit assumed that the first officer had done a thorough COPS check, said counsel assisting the coroner Kate Richardson SC.
The officer said a lack of training in the COPS system and time pressures were also factors in her not looking into everything on Edwards' record.
"Back then we just did not look into things as closely as we do now," she said.
"There was pressure to get things done. There wasn't enough staff or resources."
The pressure remains today, the officer said, despite more staff being hired for the registry.
This is because the deaths of Jack and Jennifer led to more comprehensive checks that take up more time, she said.
The inquest continues.