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Police have lost a bid to prevent a man from having access to guns despite allegations he had previously misused guns on hunting trips, illegally kept guns from police when his licence was suspended and manufactured his own handgun. He has also previously pleaded guilty to animal cruelty.
Cameron Paterson, a delivery driver from Mount Taylor in East Gippsland, was slapped with a 10-year firearms prohibition order by Victoria Police in July 2021 over a series of allegations that police say caused them enough concern to justify the anti-gun measure.
Supreme Court. Credit: Wayne Taylor
The allegations were summarised in a judgment handed down by Supreme Court Justice James Gorton last week, when he upheld a decision by VCAT senior member Anna Dea to overturn the gun ban after Paterson appealed it.
According to court documents, the incidents that concerned police included an anecdote in which Paterson, after a 45-minute conversation with his ex-wife in which he was reprimanded, “fired a number of rounds, probably three, into a dark gully below his property whilst screaming”.
The documents say that when Paterson was a custody officer, he regularly failed to prepare meals for detainees properly, including serving food that was still partially frozen. Dea, the VCAT member who overturned Paterson’s gun ban, labelled this act “more than immature, it was deliberately cruel”.
Police were also concerned that Paterson had told his colleagues on various occasions that he enjoyed killing animals, including by shooting them in the stomach, and that sometimes “he felt like killing something” or “seeing blood”, the documents say.
“He told a story, thinking it was funny, of shooting the leg off an emu,” Justice Gorton said in his April 5 decision.
“He was seen to laugh at a video that showed a goanna in distress. He asked for inappropriate detail from a person in custody how that person had shot and killed a pig and how much it had bled or squealed.”
Paterson has denied these incidents, Justice Gorton said.
The court documents say Paterson had his gun licence suspended in October 2017 after a hunting infringement in NSW earlier that year.
Although Paterson surrendered several firearms as part of the suspension, court documents say, he made a “deliberate decision” to hide an unregistered handgun and rifle at his parents’ home rather than surrender them.
The handgun had a silencer, which, court documents say, was “particularly concerning”.
Police also highlighted an incident in 2017 when Paterson circulated a video of his dog attacking a kangaroo on the road in front of his car and another one of his dog eating the kangaroo’s leg.
Paterson was charged with animal cruelty for failing to intervene when his dog attacked the kangaroo. He pleaded guilty.
When Paterson appealed his gun prohibition order – which included prohibiting him from being on a property where there was a gun – he said it hindered him from visiting neighbours, family and friends if they had a gun at their home. He also argued it stopped him from taking his daughter to visit some of her friends and limited his work as a delivery driver, because he was unable to deliver to some of his employer’s customers.
Paterson “fired a number of rounds, probably three, into a dark gully below his property whilst screaming”.
VCAT’s decision to overturn the gun ban was upheld, Gorton said, because even though the prohibition order would “to some degree” reduce the risk of Paterson illegally obtaining a gun and committing an act of violence, it substantially impinged on his human rights in the process.
Gorton also said Paterson had never hurt or threatened to hurt anyone with a gun, had only acted foolishly with one once, had only been violent against a person once and, as VCAT’s Dea found, had matured since the events took place.
“There were, as the Senior Member [Dea] recognised, issues in Mr Paterson’s past that raised serious questions as to his suitability to hold a firearms licence,” Gorton said.
“The removal of the firearms prohibition order would not permit Mr Paterson lawfully to obtain a firearm but it would enable him to come into proximity to firearms.”
In August, Deasaid Paterson had taken “responsibility for his previous actions”, including by performing the 250 hours of community service required, and had now changed and “[rebuilt] his life”.
Paterson’s lawyers have been contacted for comment.
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