Gun registry reasoning 'flawed': manager

Jack and Jennifer Edwards were shot dead by their father before he took his own life in July 2018.
Jack and Jennifer Edwards were shot dead by their father before he took his own life in July 2018.

The supervisor of the NSW public servants who granted John Edwards a gun licence says she probably would have done the same thing based on the information available at the time.

Edwards, a 67-year-old pensioner with a propensity for domestic violence, shot dead his estranged children Jack and Jennifer before taking his own life in Sydney in July 2018.

The inquest into the deaths has heard NSW Firearms Registry staff granted him a gun licence in June 2017 without looking into recent entries on his main police profile.

As of June 2017, 15 of the 18 entries on his main police profile related to either apprehended violence orders, stalking allegations, assault allegations or adverse interactions in relationships. The most recent charges were laid in 1998.

The supervisor, who cannot be named, told the inquest on Wednesday it was obvious in hindsight that the staff could have placed more weight on the incidents.

"But based on the information at that time - and things have changed since then - I probably would have granted him a licence as well," the 19-year registry veteran said.

The manager said she and those working under her believed in 2017 they should only refuse licences if they found a "mandatory" reason outlined in legislation, such as the applicant being subject to a final AVO in the past decade.

In fact, the legislation says a licence cannot be granted unless the decision-maker is satisfied the applicant is "a fit and proper person" and can be trusted to possess firearms without endangering public safety.

"Back in 2017, obviously our reasoning had some flaws in it," the supervisor told the NSW Coroners Court.

The inquest has heard the registry - overseeing the state's 230,000 gun owners and one million firearms - didn't have formal training procedures and relied on new staff learning over the shoulder of longer-term clerks.

The clerk adjudicating on Edwards' pistol licence told police in August 2018 she had been handling 80 to 100 applications a day.

"Do you agree that ... because nothing is written down, you really have no idea about how people are being trained to do their job?" counsel assisting Kate Richardson SC asked.

"Yes," the supervisor replied.

She agreed a four-line policy could have clarified that staff needed to thoroughly check applicants' police profiles but she didn't think it was necessary.

"Some of them, they'd been here for 15 years at that time and I thought they were experienced," the supervisor said.

She said the adjudication process had changed "dramatically" since the deaths in 2018 with entirely new guidelines and a new decision-making tool that focused on identifying risk and staff being accountable.

Applications involving false or misleading statements or a history of domestic violence are escalated to "senior adjudicators", the supervisor said.

The registry also now uses the more-user-friendly WebCOPS interface to access the police database and its automatically generated report of relevant events on applicants' police profiles now targets more information.

Superintendent Anthony Bell, who took over as Firearms Registry commander in September 2018, is expected to face the inquest on Thursday.

Australian Associated Press