The Firearms Amnesty isn’t even over yet and the Queensland Police Service have already started leaking personal information about firearms licensees. The name and contact details of a firearms owner making enquiries about the firearms amnesty were published online by Queensland Police Service. This comes just months after thousands of licensed firearms owners’ names and addresses were leaked by New South Wales Police and separately by Victoria Police.
We asked Mark Stone, a Queensland Solicitor and licensed shooter: what can you do – besides move house – if Police leak your details?
LAFO: Thanks for joining us again Mark, following our previous interview about what to do if the Police show up to ‘audit’ your firearms unannounced.
Mark Stone: Thanks again for giving me the opportunity to discuss legal issues with your readers. I really enjoyed the last interview and it raised a lot of interest.
LAFO: We were pretty horrified to see, this week, a member of the public get in touch with a law-abiding firearms owner to say ‘excuse me Sir, the Queensland Police have published your firearms amnesty questions and contact details on the internet’ just months after NSW and Victoria had massive leaks of thousands of shooters’ addresses. Do you see these sort of things happen a lot?
Mark Stone: I do see a lot of information being given to the media generically. Individuals will no doubt have their own stories. I’ve seen the Police accessing personal information for all sorts of inappropriate reasons.
LAFO: Should people raise the issue with Police if they find out or strongly suspect their details have been leaked?
Mark Stone: It is a sensible step to contact the Privacy or Information Unit of the Police service and raise your concern. If your details have been accidentally published online by Police, they can take them down. If your details have been posted or printed or emailed, then the Police can at least try to destroy or retrieve any copies from circulation.
LAFO: What legal options do licensed shooters have if their details are leaked?
Mark Stone: In Queensland, the simplest thing they can do is make a privacy complaint to QPS. QPS have a Right To Information & Privacy Unit and making a complaint can be as simple as sending an email with your name and your understanding of what you think might’ve been leaked about you to email@example.com . If you are not satisfied with their response or actions in dealing with the issue, you can lodge a privacy complaint about that with the Queensland Information Commissioner. This is also a free process.
LAFO: A nightmare scenario is that your house is burgled and your firearms get stolen. What can people do in this situation?
Mark Stone: If you have suffered some sort of loss then you have the option to seek compensation at QCAT if the Information Commissioner can’t help you and the Police to agree on compensation. The object of the law about privacy complaints is to ‘remedy’ or repair your situation as much as possible and QCAT can award up to $100,000 in doing so.
LAFO: You’ve got a lot of experience across firearms legal issues. How would anyone know (or even suspect) that a theft at their house was the result of a leak from the firearms registry?
Mark Stone: They probably wouldn’t know without independent information being provided to them about it.
Note: this interview is a general discussion of legal issues and should not be taken as personal or individual advice. Every situation has different facts and seek advice specific to your situation.