30/1/21 Ground Breaking win to Benefit all shooters!

Sports Coalition Statement:

Judicial Review Michael Rochford v The Revenue Commissioners

The Sports Coalition would like to congratulate Michael Rochford on the positive outcome of the order made before the court on the 19th January 2020 – Judicial Review – Re: (applicant) Michael Rochford -v- (respondent) The Revenue Commissioners & (Notice Party) The Minister for Justice & Equality.

We would like to applaud Michael for having the courage and tenacity to take on the case, considering the risks involved the outcome was well deserved.

Michael has outlined the full background to the progression of this case which shows the level of ineptitude displayed by arms of the state in the treatment of an individual clearly in deference to current firearms legislation.

We would also congratulate Michael on his service to the shooting community lest it be underestimated the importance of this case to every man and woman who are in possession of a firearms certificate in the state, what has been achieved are clear and unambiguous legal determination as to what constitutes a component of a firearm and the implications of importing such into the state.

We would speculate that there are many innocent firearms holders that have had goods seized under the circumstances outlined in the case taken by Michael, and we would urge any such individual to now seek redress along the path which Michael has now forged.  At the very least they should seek return of the goods and in the event of them being destroyed that they are adequately compensated.

There is little further to be said as the case speaks for itself and Michael has clearly articulated the issue as it arose and the steps, he took to remedy the progression without success.

Finally, Michael, the shooting community owes you a great debt of gratitude.

Thank you!
Best Wishes for the Future

Declan Keogh
Chairman
Sports Coalition Ireland

Judicial Review –Re: (Applicant) Michael Rochford -v – (Respondent)The Revenue Commissioners & (Notice Party) The Minister for Justice & Equality

Order made before Court on 19th January 2021 in the High Courts for Judicial Review before Mr. Justice Charles Meenan.

The following order was read into court by Siobhan Phelan SC, barrister for applicant

The Respondent and Notice Party made no objection to the making of an order in the following terms:

(i) Quashing the Notice of Seizure dated the 1st April 2020 on the grounds that no importation license was required for the goods, specifically (a) 2 Empty Magazine Cartridges for TAC21, (b) 1 Buttpad Spacer Kit (c) 1 ORYX Chassis System (hereafter “the goods”) because the goods did not constitute component parts within the meaning of the Firearms Acts and the regulations made thereunder;

(ii) That the Revenue Commissioners shall pay the costs of Mr. Rochford, to include a certificate for Senior Counsel, such costs to be adjudicated in default of agreement; and

(iii) That the Revenue Commissioners shall deliver the goods to Mr. Rochford.

[As a serving Garda I will not be referring to any dealings or departments within An Garda Siochana relating to this case, as under Garda Code Regulations I cannot be seen to bring the job into disrepute.]

Details of case: After ordering the above items (rifle stock/chassis, spacer kit, 2 Magazines) at the end of March 2020 from Oryx Chassis Company (subsidiary of MDT) based in Canada I tracked items to Dublin Postal Hub. After contacting them I was then notified by Revenue that they had seized my items and issued me a seizure notice calming that the items were firearm components as defined by the Firearms Act Section 1(1)(g)(iii) as amended by Section 26 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 which states that any object (i)manufactured for the use as a component in connection with the operation of a firearm and (ii)without which it could not function as originally designed, is a firearm.

I immediately lodged a Notice of Claim along with a copy of my valid firearm licence attached. After this I continued to make inquiries to the Respondent about the status of my notice of claim throughout the month of April, however I failed to obtain any update. Finally, on the 29th April 2020 I was contacted by the Revenue Officer in charge of this matter and he advised me that he would investigate the matter thoroughly, however that he had two reports regarding the Oryx chassis and that he believed that I would not be getting the items back.

I outlined to him a number of sections of the Firearms Act, the EU directives and statutory instruments relating to my claim. All of which would have drawn this matter to a close should they have been dealt with correctly by Revenue. During April I also sought clarification from the Department of Justice Firearms Section. I was advised by one of their staff that a rifle stock does not alter the function of the firearm or otherwise change the category of the firearm, therefore it is not considered to be an essential component part of a firearm and may be imported without an import license. In May 2020 this was again confirmed by the Dept of Justice staff member and the list of essential components were given as per SI 420/2019 (which I had already supplied to Revenue), none of the items I had purchased were listed on this Statutory Instrument. In mid-May I was informed by the officer from Revenue that he was 90% sure of his verdict which would not be in my favour. I was also advised that the staff from the Dept of Justice had since changed his view on the matter.

On the 9th June 2020 I received a letter of decision setting out that my goods namely two empty magazine cartridges for TAC21, 1 buttpad spacer kit and one oryx chassis system were seized on the 1stApril 2020 on the basis that they were imported into the State in contravention of Section 1, Firearms Act 1925 as amended. When I requested to see the correspondence from the Dept of Justice and other state bodies involved in the decision making process which had brought him to his conclusion I was informed that I would only be supplied them in the event I challenged their decision before a court.

My three items as sought to be imported represent features which affect the appearance of my firearm but are not necessary to its functioning. My firearm is complete and functioning without any of these new items and as such under the firearms act they cannot be classified to be component parts, only accessories.

As I had now been accused of importing firearm components without an importation license which is an indictable criminal offence, and also that Revenue were refusing to allow me access to documentation for me to make any defence of their claims under the customs act I was forced into a position where I had to take a Judicial Review to the High Court in order to not only have my goods returned, but also and more importantly, to vindicate my name of any wrong doing or criminality as I was acutely aware that breaches of the Customs Act are liable to criminal prosecution. As a long standing law enforcement officer for almost 17 years and a person who guards his reputation dearly, this was a terrible position to find myself cast into due to incorrect decision making from state departments.

Through my solicitor Mr. William Egan every attempt has been made to remedy these matters without the time and expense of such a lengthy court proceedings, however the Respondent made no attempt to help in this matter and treated all correspondence with a tone of disregard for their actions on a wronged citizen and a manner of trying to strong arm me into settling this case without being able to rectify the error in their decision making process and also without the possibility of vindicating my good character and reputation.

The purpose of a Judicial Review is a way for the High Court to supervise the lower courts, tribunals and other administrative bodies to ensure that they make their decisions properly and in accordance with the law. It is not a civil proceedings or personal injury case where financial damages are sought, or criminal case so the proceedings were solely to prove that I had been correct and lawful in my actions.

Thankfully due to the expert legal work of Siobhan Phelan SC, Miranda Egan-Langley BL I have been successful in receiving a court order resolving all matters. I thank both Siobhan and Miranda for all their effort in this case. I must also wholeheartedly thank my solicitor Mr. William Egan, who at every point of this case was available to speak to me and throughout all proceedings he was available to give his expert views and advice be it weekends, evenings or mornings and I will always be grateful for this help. At all junction s of this case he was on the same page and views as myself regarding the correct legal interpretations of the firearms act, this sentiment is also to Williams Office Manager, Breda Whelan, who worked tirelessly and was in constant communication with me and all the other members of the legal team representing me and without them I would not have been successful in this application.

Finally I wish to say that as a person who has worked for the state almost two decades I am saddened to think that this is the process that someone must go through in order to vindicate their good name, when these matters could have been resolved by simply reading the legislation and listening to the views of the other party involved. I made every attempt to keep these matters from going to a High Court case but to no avail. I have had 9 months of tremendous stress and anxiety placed upon myself and my family in fear of losing both my job and possibly my liberty if criminally prosecuted. Also the burden of the spiralling legal fees that it takes in order to take a High Court challenge to a full conclusion hanging over me have caused me untold stress. As a member of An Garda Siochana it is never a situation to want to find yourself taking legal action against other state departments and I can only hope that this will not have affected my career going forward.

Thankfully this Judicial Review matter is now concluded and I hope the legal precedent it will set regarding these items, not being components, may help others who are forced into the same situation.

Kindest Regards,

Michael Rochford