John Edwards' gun licence lie didn't stop him from getting one seven years later
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John Edwards' gun licence lie didn't stop him from getting one seven years later

John Edwards lied on an application to the firearms registry in 2010, which was refused once staff uncovered his apprehended violence order history. But the matter of the false application was never followed up.

Seven years later, despite this lie and his lengthy history of domestic violence, the registry granted him licences for a rifle and pistol that he would go on to use to kill his two teenage children, Jennifer and Jack Edwards, before killing himself.

John Edwards, Jennifer Edwards and Jack Edwards. 

John Edwards, Jennifer Edwards and Jack Edwards. 

The NSW Firearms Registry staff member who supervised all of the clerks involved in the decision to grant Edwards his gun licences in 2017 told an inquest into the three deaths on Wednesday that she "probably would have issued the licence as well".

But after being walked through the database reports showing exactly what the clerks saw before they granted him a licence, she accepted it was in fact "obvious" there was a clear pattern of risk associated with Edwards and "our reasoning had some flaws".

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The supervisor, whose identity is suppressed along with all firearms registry staff appearing at the inquest, defended the failure to follow-up or flag Edwards in the database after a licence application containing false information was refused in 2010.

The inquest heard in 2010, Edwards ticked "no" on the licence application form where it asked if he had been subject to an AVO in the past decade. A check on the NSW Police database revealed that to be false, and his licence application was refused – but no further action was taken, either by escalating to police or by making a note in Edwards' file.

Detectives leave the house where Jack and Jennifer Edwards were murdered by their father, John Edwards, in 2018.

Detectives leave the house where Jack and Jennifer Edwards were murdered by their father, John Edwards, in 2018. Credit:Dominic Lorrimer

The supervisor said the licence "was refused because he was subject to the AVO, so it wasn’t necessary to follow up the false and misleading [application]."

Asked if that information might be relevant to someone making a decision at the registry later on, the supervisor disagreed, saying it was not difficult for staff members in 2017 to access the information needed to work out he had previously made a false application.

On Tuesday, the inquest heard from the clerk who who looked at Edwards' police record, containing 18 entries of his history of assault, stalking and AVOs, before granting him the licence.

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The supervisor could not say "what the thought process was" when Edwards' rifle and pistol licences were granted in June 2017, and said she had not viewed the police database audit that shows the steps the clerk who made the decision had taken.

But when questioned further on what she knew of the steps taken at the time, she said she "probably would have issued the licence as well", based on the information available.

She said she did not conduct her own review into how staff under her supervision had granted Edwards' gun licences, because she understood the registry management and police were investigating and did not think it would be appropriate.

'Flawed reasoning' and 'no specific training' for identifying DV

The inquest was shown the report viewed by the clerk who granted Edwards a gun licence, which showed that over 24 years there were eight events involving three ex-partners and an adult child who had taken out AVOs against Edwards – some of which were highlighted by the clerk.

The supervisor agreed the report did show Edwards had a lengthy history of AVOs, which would have been sufficient for refusing his licence on public interest grounds.

But she admitted the focus of clerks was on mandatory disqualifying factors rather than the bigger picture question of whether someone was a fit and proper person to carry a gun.

"Obviously our reasoning had some flaws in it," she said.

Separately, a police database report viewed before a rifle licence was granted showed the clerk focused on the three "least relevant events" in Edwards' history, Ms Richardson said – an AVO in which Edwards was the victim, a verbal argument he had with Olga, and his report that Olga would make false allegations against him.

Asked "does that not strike you as really an extraordinary way to approach this application?" the supervisor replied: "Based on face value, yes."

"In fact", Ms Richardson said, it shows the clerk "has very little or no understanding of what she is looking for in terms of risk. Do you agree with that?"

"Yes it does inference that."

The supervisor told the inquest there was "no specific training" provided to registry staff on identifying a pattern of domestic violence.

The inquest continues.

Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service 1800 737 732 Lifeline 13 11 14.

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