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Rifle seized, charges and fines issued during Operation Fleece

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A man has been charged after Rural Crime Investigators seized a firearm during a three-day proactive operation focusing on rural theft and firearm offences in the region.

Investigators from Hunter Valley, Orana/Mid-Western, Manning/Great Lakes, Richmond and Chifley police districts established Operation Fleece to target the movement of stock, illegal hunting and the safe storage of firearms within vehicles and premises within the Merriwa and Cassilis area.

During the operation – from Friday 28 October to Sunday 30 October – police conducted 15 safe storage inspections and two firearm prohibition order (FPO) searches.

About 5.30pm on 28 October, investigators stopped a vehicle on Bylong Valley Way at Baerami and spoke with the driver, a 40-year-old man.

The vehicle was searched, where police located and seized a .22 sawn-off rifle, cannabis and ammunition to undergo forensic examination.

He was taken to Muswellbrook Police Station and charged with acquire firearm – subject to prohibition order; possess shortened firearm, possess unregistered firearm, possess ammunition and possess prohibited drug.

Police will allege in court the man is subject to a Firearms Prohibition Order (FPO).

The Baerami man was refused bail to appear at Newcastle Local Court on Saturday 29 October, where he was granted conditional bail to reappear at Muswellbrook Local Court on Tuesday 1 November.

Officers issued 30 traffic infringement notices and two companion animal infringement notices during the operation, including to the driver of a conducted livestock checks and issued infringement notices to the people transporting sheep, cattle and pigs allegedly uncompliant with biosecurity legislation.

State Rural Crime Coordinator Detective Chief Inspector Cameron Whiteside said while there were positive interactions with landholders and detections, the lack of compliance in transportation of stock and traceability was disappointing.

“The absence of identifiers on stock, coupled with a blatant disregard to transportation documentation and the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) plays into the hands of criminals that steal stock,” he explained.

“This – coupled with the potential for Emergency Animal Disease – is a source of genuine concern.

“Rural crime operations will continue to be run throughout the Hunter Valley Police District to address rural crime issues and enhance relations with rural stakeholders.”

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