Gun collector back in court over importing military firearm

A CABOOLTURE gun collector who tried to import parts for a high-powered military weapon will be back before the courts after Customs appealed a magistrate's decision not to impose any penalty.

Timothy Ian Charles Powell was charged on February 21, 2006, after he imported a receiver part for an M16 self-loading military firearm through a dealer based in the USA.

He claimed that he honestly believed he was permitted to import the weapon part, given its similarity to AKM receiver parts he had earlier imported without a permit.

Mr Powell was convicted on June 10, 2013, for importing a prohibited item but the sentencing magistrate used his discretion and discharged him without penalty.

The magistrate concluded the offence was committed in extenuating circumstances because Mr Powell honestly believed he was not breaking any law when importing the part.

Customs appealed the decision on the grounds the sentencing magistrate had erred in his decision and the case, based on the evidence, did not fall within the exceptional circumstances category.

During a hearing in December last year the Brisbane District Court heard that Mr Powell had viewed photographs of the part and satisfied himself they were similar in their state of modification to the AKM machine gun parts Customs had previously considered not to be firearm parts.

Customs argued that regardless of the similarities between the parts he could not have either honestly or reasonably believed that he could import it without permit.

Judge Fleur Kingham, in handing down her decision this week, agreed the sentencing magistrate had made an error and ordered that Mr Powell be resentenced over the offence.

She said his 2004 conviction for importing a breech bolt without a permit should have put him on notice as to the risk of importing items that may infringe the Customs law.

"He is an experienced importer and is knowledgeable about Customs processes," she said.

"His correspondence about other items demonstrates he understood the fine distinctions that need to be drawn in determining whether a particular item requires a permit.

"He had the opportunity to obtain specific advice from Customs which he did not exercise."

The matter will be listed for mention at a future date.


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