NSW police announce first bomb amnesty – but just don't bring them in

Joshua Robertson
NSW police have announced Australia’s first six-month amnesty on illegal bombs but say it is ‘critical that these materials are not moved or transported’. Photograph: Ian Waldie/Getty Images

Police set to run Australia’s first amnesty on illegal bombs have hedged their appeal with a warning that “under no circumstances are materials to be transported to a police station”.

New South Wales police will seek to cut the volume of dangerous explosives in the community by giving a six-month window of legal immunity to those who hand them in.

From 1 May, police will respond to calls from the public reporting unlicensed collections of bombs or hazardous materials, ranging from homemade explosives to those smuggled out of commercial or military facilities and even fireworks.

Those involved in the illicit collection or making of explosives have ranged from criminal gangs to curious individuals, in addition to what authorities have alleged were a number of foiled bomb plots by would-be terrorists in recent years.

NSW police told its officers in a memo that the amnesty, codenamed Operation Fragor, was “a safe and proactive way to reduce the amount of dangerous explosives in the community”, News Corp reported.

But the force in a media statement spelled out some risks associated with the campaign, which brings a new dimension to illegal weapons amnesties previously run by Australian state police.

A NSW police spokeswoman said it was “critical that these materials are not moved or transported”.

“Under no circumstances are materials to be transported to a police station,” she said. “Simply call police, who will inspect and ultimately dispose of the materials.

“Do not tilt, touch or tamper as older explosives can become unstable over time.”

The work of bomb squad officers is backed by temporary changes to the state’s Explosives Act.

An amendment states that person without the necessary security clearance or licence to possess or store an explosive would be exempt from related offences under the act for six months from March 15 if they notified police.

That person was also exempt from certain offences against the Explosives Regulation 2013 around the possession or storage of the reported explosive.

High-profile illicit explosives arsenals have included 17.5kg of Powergel explosives and one of 10 rocket launchers stolen from the army, which were handed back by convicted murderer Adnan Darwiche in a bid to bolster his legal negotiations with the NSW government.

By contrast, a Sydney carpenter pleaded guilty in Manly local court to setting off homemade pipe bombs in a national park last year, in what his lawyer said were “foolish” acts not meant to harm anyone.

Police reportedly tracked the man down via his purchase of galvanised pipe from a Bunnings hardware store.

The NSW police spokeswoman said the amnesty covered materials including “commercial explosives and detonators, homemade explosives, pyrotechnics and signal flares”.

“Police will be undertaking an education process in local communities in the coming months on the amnesty and collection process,” she said. “In the meantime, the advice is simple. Do not move the materials, call police and they will come and inspect.”

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