A Courtenay man, charged with numerous firearms offences, has had his sentence reduced by the B.C. Court of Appeal.
Bryce Cameron Scott McDonald had been sentenced to 40 months in prison on 12 counts primarily dealing with handling and storage of firearms contrary to the conditions of his Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL).
McDonald’s home on Flicker Place in Courtenay and two other locations, including a storage unit, had been raided in December 2013 by members of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia.
McDonald was entitled to possess in total 49 registered restricted firearms, although the condition of his PAL required that they be stored securely in a storage locker at a certain secure location and that he was not allowed to store them at his residence.
When the police searched his home, they discovered only seven of the 49 firearms. No guns were found in the storage facility.
McDonald was charged with four counts concerning a registered and licenced Boberg handgun found in his bedroom dresser drawer, unlocked and fully loaded with a loaded clip beside it. The next six counts concerned the storage of registered restricted weapons in an unauthorized place.
Count 11 involved the unlicensed possession of a prohibited weapon, namely brass knuckles, while Count 12 involved the possession of cocaine.
Although there were still at least 30 guns missing, McDonald was not charged with any offences related to that, including trafficking or failing to report their loss.
The sentencing judge did not believe McDonald’s explanation for the missing guns, some of which had apparently shown up at crime scenes.
“The connection between the circumstances of the disappearance of the guns and the discovery of some of them at crime scenes is unknown and involves pure speculation,” wrote appeals court judge Justice Harris.
“Furthermore, there is no evidence connecting Mr. McDonald to their transmission into the hands of criminals.
“The most that can be said is that the fact that some guns showed up at crime scenes illustrates the risks the licensing and regulatory scheme is intended to guard against and informs an assessment of Mr. McDonald’s attitude towards the regulatory scheme and his character in a way which informs an assessment of his moral culpability for the offences of which he was convicted.”
The danger, wrote Justice Harris, is that the evidence would be used to punish uncharged conduct.
McDonald couldn’t be punished for gun trafficking or failing to report missing guns, because he hadn’t been charged for those offences.
“He could only be punished for securely storing six registered guns in the wrong place and for improperly storing a loaded firearm, also in the wrong place,” wrote Justice Harris in allowing the appeal and a reduction in sentencing from 40 months to 30.