Victorian pensioner found guilty of defending herself with a firearm

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Sixty-nine-year-old Margot Marshall was charged with assault with a weapon, carrying a firearm in an unsafe manner and failing to comply with her gun licence conditions after she grabbed her single-barrel shotgun to face three people she feared were intruders who had driven on to her property at Wooragee, in North East Victoria, late on Saturday April 15.

This follows a recent story where Riverina farmer David Dunstan had his guns seized and his firearms licence reviewed after an encounter with a would-be home intruder armed with a knife. After a lengthy 6 week wait the farmer had all charges dropped and his firearm returned.

The Weekly Times reported Victorian MP and member of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party Jeff Bourman warned a spike in crime could see more rural landholders run foul of firearms law.

“The issue will keep popping up as crime becomes a problem and people get scared,” he said.

Mr Bourman said in Victoria, unlike NSW, a gun could be used in self-defence if it could be proven appropriate and justifiable.

“The police want you to call 000 if you feel threatened, but that is not always an option,” Mr Bourman said.

“In the end it’s up to the courts to determine under what circumstances you can and can’t use a firearm to defend yourself.”

Ms Marshall was alone and asleep on her 8.9ha property at about 9.30pm when she ­noticed a car come up her 500m driveway towards her house.

“I thought that was odd. I’ve been on this property for five years and no one has ever driven up the driveway at night as there are two signs at my front gate warning that it is private property and to keep out,” Ms Marshall said.

“They turned off their lights and parked in front of the shed.”

Ms Marshall said she noticed two or three people sitting inside the car.

One of them got out and started walking towards the fence.

Ms Marshall said she retrieved her gun from her safe, walked outside with it and told the people to leave.

Police said the three people were lost and had ended up at Ms Marshall’s property after their GPS mistakenly took them there.

They were seeking directions when they entered the property.

Two of them said Ms Marshall had pointed the shotgun at the woman who had got out of the car. That woman feared she would be shot, they said.

Despite pleading guilty to the charges, Ms Marshall said she felt justified to grab her gun.

She denied pointing the gun at the woman, claiming she had held it in her right arm below her hip. It was also unloaded, she said.

Ms Marshall, whose ill husband was away in care on the night of the indecent, initially intended to fight the charges, with her legal representative arguing that the “keep out” and “private property” signs meant she was within her rights.

However, when the magistrate offered a 12-month good behaviour bond with no fine if she pleaded guilty, Ms Marshall changed her plea.

Ms Marshall’s shotgun was seized and will be destroyed.

“I was worried about how I would pay any fine and it was two witnesses against my word,” Ms Marshall said

“I am very sorry I pleaded guilty, I would have liked to pursue the case for other people who find themselves alone and isolated and in that situation.”

Victoria Police would not comment on Ms Marshall’s case, but in a statement said: “Victoria Police asks that members of the public consider their own safety and that of others before taking matters into their own hands.

“We ... urge members of the public to ring 000 for a police response in the first instance.”

It’s sad to read that a frightened elderly woman has had her legally stored and owned gun destroyed after trying to defend herself in a position that she felt vulnerable. She had the gun unloaded the whole time and stated in court that she did not point it at anyone. 

The pensioner would have been drained financially fighting the charges and in this case I believe the legal system has failed her. You can’t help but feel that there is a growing anti-firearm culture within the agencies. 

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