Police lose 'gun fight' with man
A SOUTH Grafton man who successfully sued the NSW Police for destroying seven of his firearms is at least $10,000 out of pocket and angry at the waste of public money spent to thwart his quest for compensation.
Kevin Hebron was awarded $12,500 compensation for the lost guns, which included an almost irreplaceable antique double-barrelled Italian shotgun, during a civil hearing at Maclean Court on Wednesday.
The trouble for Mr Hebron, a keen target shooter and hunter, began in 2006 when he attended a pistol shooting event in Byron Bay.
Prior to the event Mr Hebron's four-wheel-drive was parked in a private, locked carpark when police were called.
They noticed a Glock pistol in the rear of his vehicle and believed he was in breach of firearm safety rules. They seized the pistol and contacted Grafton police, who confiscated the firearms stored at his home.
Ironically for Mr Hebron, police returned the Glock pistol, which was in minor breach of firearms safety rules, but destroyed the other guns which had been legally stored at his home.
Wednesday's court hearing was the fifth time the matter had been heard and the defendant hired a Sydney barrister, Mr Bateman, to defend the matter.
The defence did not fight liability for the destruction of the guns, but rejected Mr Hebron's claim for compensation of $22,500.
Mr Bateman questioned the expertise of a number of gun shops which gave quotes for the replacement of the weapons.
Maclean solicitor Mark Spagnolo, acting for Mr Hebron, presented the quotes for replacement of the weapons, likening the situation to a person presenting a car insurer with a range of quotes for repairs to a damaged vehicle.
But the defence disputed the quotes, claiming the value of the guns was not a fact but an opinion.
Magistrate Kim Pogson asked if the two sides could come to an agreement and in the lunch adjournment Mr Spagnolo and Mr Bateman came up with the $12,500 figure.
Despite agreeing to a sum that puts him out of pocket, Mr Hebron is delighted to put the battle behind him.
“This is the end of the matter. I've had more than enough of the legal system,” Mr Hebron said yesterday of his court experiences.
“If I took up law as a job I'd take up smoking and be an alcoholic.
“It doesn't make a lot of sense to me.
“When we transport our guns in the future, they're going to be the safest guns in Australia.”
Mr Hebron said he had left a lot of costs out of his claim, such as permits for the replacement firearms and mounts for telescopic sights.
“We tried to be fair and not rip off the government, but they didn't do the same for us,” he said.
The absence of a paper trail for the destroyed weapons also dismayed Mr Hebron.
“After the firearms breach matter was settled at Byron Bay, police told me I could go to Grafton and get my guns back,” he said.
But when he arrived and presented the property receipt for the guns, he was told they had been destroyed.
He said he couldn't get paperwork from either the police or the Firearms Registry about the destruction of the guns.
He attempted to subpoena the records, but was unable to get them.
“There were seven firearms missing for 18 months and no paper trail,” he said.
“There were seven firearms missing.”