Key messages

  • Sometimes public mental health services can disclose information to police, if they think a person is unfit to carry firearms.
  • Any final decision on whether to notify police should be guided by professional judgement and ethics.
  • This guidance is intended for general information only and not as legal advice.

In some situations, public mental health services can disclose information to police without liability, if they believe a person is unfit to possess, carry or use a firearm.

Immunity from liability

Registered medical practitioners, registered nurses, psychologists, social workers and occupational therapists who work in a relevant psychiatric service can notify Victoria Police if they believe:

  • a person is unfit to possess, carry or use a firearm, and
  • the person has a firearms licence, intends to apply for a licence, possesses or intends to possess a firearm.

Relevant psychiatric services

A relevant psychiatric service is:

  • an approved mental health service
  • a child and adolescent psychiatry service
  • a hospital admitting or caring for people with a mental disorder
  • a psychiatric outpatient clinic
  • a community mental health service.

Factors to consider when deciding a person is unfit

Mental health practitioners may consider the following factors:

  • the level of suicide risk
  • past episodes of violence to self or others
  • if there is a current risk of harm to the client or others
  • the presence of comorbid disinhibiting factors such as illicit drugs, prescribed drugs or alcohol
  • whether there is a history of verbally threatening behaviour
  • any lack of impulse control
  • whether the person is a danger to themselves or others when acutely ill
  • concern expressed by a significant other.

These are not the only factors that may lead to a notification, nor will they apply in every situation.

Any final decision on whether to notify police should be guided by professional judgement and ethics.

If in doubt, discuss the matter with the Director of Clinical Services.

How to notify Victoria Police

Victoria Police request that all notifications are made by calling 000.

Police will take the details of the person who is calling and the type of risk involved.

They will ask for details of the person who has access to firearms, and the type, source and location of the firearms if known.

The circumstances or risk factors related to the person's condition are also useful at this point.

If the person's access to firearms creates a risk to another person, provide the name and address of this person if known.

Police will attend to speak with the person making the notification.

If you have a preference for the type of police car to attend, and whether you prefer plain-clothes police, you can tell this to police during the call.

Disclaimer

This guidance is intended for general information only and not as legal advice.

Mental health practitioners may wish to obtain advice from legal services available through their mental health service.