THE most serious offence that former firearms dealer Michael Fraser committed was failing to tell police about a semi-automatic SKS rifle that his friend brought to his workshop at Seaham.
That and the fact that he supplied the man with ammunition for that rfle is what's behind the indictable offence for which Mr Fraser was sentenced on Thursday, October 6, in Newcastle District Court.
Judge Peter McGrath described Fraser's failure to report the whereabouts of the weapon as a serious lapse in judgement.
He allowed his "mateship and his friendship to get in the way" and put the public at risk of danger, which put the offence into the mid-range of seriousness for that type of offence, Justice McGrath said.
To his credit, Fraser had refused his mate's request for him to convert the firearm into a fully automatic rifle, telling him instead to "get this piece of s--- out of my yard".
Fraser was legitimately involved with firearms through a business he ran in Seaham selling guns and ammunition, servicing guns and offering safe storage facilities.
But his friend, code-named 'Mr White', was the brother of another man, code-named 'Mr Black', who knew a member of the Rebels motorcyle gang, code-named 'Mr Green'.
Mr Green was a close associate of Abuzar Sultani, who took over as president of the Burwood chapter of the Rebels in about January 2014.
Part of Mr Green's role was to source firearms, ammunition, stolen cars and false registration plates for Sultani.
He was also sometimes asked to have firearms altered so they could not be tested by police and linked to crimes in which they were used, according to an agreed statement of facts tendered in court.
In his remarks on sentence, Justice McGrath emphasised the fact that Mr Fraser knew nothing of any activities linking his friend, Mr White, to any gang-related activity, gang members, or crimes.
But the situation revealed the importance of firearm licensing and the possibility of ending up in circumstances like that of Mr Fraser.
By degree and degrees of separation, even people of impeccable character could become involved in circumstances "that may lead to dangerous firearms ending up in the hands of the wrong people ", Justice McGrath said.
The Sultani group operating in Burwood at that time was involved in drug dealing, drug turf wars, and a number of murders which threatened other gang members as well as members of the general public, Justice McGrath said.
Most of the charges facing Fraser had to do with the sheer volume of firearms which came into his possession, due in large part to his willingness to help police to store guns - 1,269 long arms, and 100 short and long armed firearms, which they had nowhere else to store, the court heard,
He became overwhelmed, despite spending hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to ensure the firearms were properly stored, including the purchase of a shipping container and a vault.
In 2016 another firearms dealer handed over another 678 pistols to him, the court heard.
Fraser pleaded guilty to concealing a serious indictable offence, two counts of possess unregistered firearms, one count of give a prohibited firearm to an unauthorised person, as well as other less serious charges being taken into consideration.
Justice McGrath said he was entitled to a discount on sentence for his plea of guilty to the most serious offence, as well as for helping police during their investigation.
He was sentenced to two and a half years to be served by way of an Intensive Corrections Order which will expire on April 5, 2025, nearly seven years to the day after his firearms licence was revoked by police following his arrest in 2018.
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