David Dunstan all over again:
“A RURAL pensioner has been left frustrated and angry after pleading guilty to firearm offences in the Wodonga Magistrates’ Court last week.
Sixty-nine-year-old Margot Marshall was charged with assault with a weapon, carrying a firearm in an unsafe manner and failing to comply with her gun licence conditions after she grabbed her single-barrel shotgun to face three people she feared were intruders who had driven on to her property at Wooragee, in North East Victoria, late on Saturday April 15.
The court case has thrown a spotlight on the rights of rural landowners when trespassers enter their property. It follows an incident in the Riverina in September when Bungowannah farmer David Dunstan had his guns seized and his firearms licence reviewed after he found a man armed with a knife and a long piece of wood at his back door at 3.30am on September 14.
Fearing for his family’s safety, Mr Dunstan grabbed an unloaded .22 rifle, but did not point it at the intruder. He was subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing and his firearms were returned after six weeks.
Victorian MP and member of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party Jeff Bourman warned a spike in crime could see more rural landholders run foul of firearms law. “The issue will keep popping up as crime becomes a problem and people get scared,” he said. Mr Bourman said in Victoria, unlike NSW, a gun could be used in self-defence if it could be proven appropriate and justifiable.
“The police want you to call 000 if you feel threatened, but that is not always an option,” Mr Bourman said. “In the end it’s up to the courts to determine under what circumstances you can and can’t use a firearm to defend yourself.”
Ms Marshall was alone and asleep on her 8.9ha property at about 9.30pm when she noticed a car come up her 500m driveway towards her house. “I thought that was odd. I’ve been on this property for five years and no one has ever driven up the driveway at night as there are two signs at my front gate warning that it is private property and to keep out,” Ms Marshall said. “They turned off their lights and parked in front of the shed.”
Ms Marshall said she noticed two or three people sitting inside the car. One of them got out and started walking towards the fence. Ms Marshall said she retrieved her gun from her safe, walked outside with it and told the people to leave. Police said the three people were lost and had ended up at Ms Marshall’s property after their GPS mistakenly took them there. They were seeking directions when they entered the property.
Two of them said Ms Marshall had pointed the shotgun at the woman who had got out of the car. That woman feared she would be shot, they said. Despite pleading guilty to the charges, Ms Marshall said she felt justified to grab her gun. She denied pointing the gun at the woman, claiming she had held it in her right arm below her hip. It was also unloaded, she said.
Ms Marshall, whose ill husband was away in care on the night of the indecent, initially intended to fight the charges, with her legal representative arguing that the “keep out” and “private property” signs meant she was within her rights. However, when the magistrate offered a 12-month good behaviour bond with no fine if she pleaded guilty, Ms Marshall changed her plea. Ms Marshall’s shotgun was seized and will be destroyed.
“I was worried about how I would pay any fine and it was two witnesses against my word,” Ms Marshall said. “I am very sorry I pleaded guilty, I would have liked to pursue the case for other people who find themselves alone and isolated and in that situation.”
Victoria Police would not comment on Ms Marshall’s case, but in a statement said: “Victoria Police asks that members of the public consider their own safety and that of others before taking matters into their own hands.
“We … urge members of the public to ring 000 for a police response in the first instance.”
Whatever, Victoria Police. Should the three people macheted in Melbourne the last two days have rung you guys and waited to turn up while they were being hacked? This woman was alone at night on a rural property and she is expected to wait hours for you to turn up? If this group of people had malevolent intentions she may not have even reached her phone.
Mrs Marshall’s response appeared reasonable in the circumstances. Did she know the intention of these people? Given all the rural firearm thefts Police have been going on about, how did she not know they were there to steal a firearm?
We’re surprised Loony Lisa Neville hasn’t given her a $50,000 fine as well.
If Mrs Marshall’s account is correct then on the basis of the information this is exactly a mirror image of David Dunstan case on the other side of the border. An elderly woman alone on a rural private property finds strangers trespassing late at night, grabs an unloaded firearm and does not point it at the offenders asking them to leave. The end result? No-one was harmed but the victim is punished.
Sure, she pleaded guilty but her alternative under Victoria’s pathetic justice system was to waste thousands fighting it out in court or possibly perish at the hands of three people if they were ill-intentioned. The act of her showing these people she had a firearm without pointing it is no different than a Policeman having his firearm in a holster – it’s just a subtle reminder there is a tool there. Maybe if she was able to carry a holstered pistol, this could have been different.
However, how is this different to the Dunstan case?
It’s this kind of disgraceful anti-victim, anti self-defence, anti-firearm culture within both the Australian justice system and Police culture that just drives a further wedge between the public and government. Victoria Police could have potentially exercised their discretion and not charged her, or warned her. Sure, there is an argument the other way too but on the basis of the information it would seem a far more reasonable approach.
I guess the bright side is Mrs Marshall may qualify for free footy tickets from Daniel Andrews.
Scant compensation for having your lawfully owned firearm used to defend your life and your property, being destroyed.