The lawyer for a man caught with a restricted revolver with ammo in his Killarney home will argue that the mandatory minimum three years in prison is cruel and unusual punishment.
Defence lawyer Bernie Rodrigue filed the notice of constitutional question in Brandon Court of Queen’s Bench on Monday on behalf of his client, Paul Benjamin Croft.
The revolver and bullets were among a large stash of illegally possessed guns, knives and other prohibited weapons found at Croft’s property.
The case began in early September 2011 when police became aware that Croft might have semi-automatic and automatic firearms.
Investigators learned Croft never held a valid firearms licence and never had any firearms registered to him.
In March 2012, a pair of undercover RCMP officers went to Croft’s property. They were posing as travellers to a gun show in the United States who were stopping buy to talk about buying some dogs.
“Mr. Croft welcomed them in and engaged in conversation,” states an agreed statement of facts. “He was welcoming for the entire visit and at one point even offered for them to stay or stop back on the way home to shoot some of his toys.”
Croft talked about his previous military career and spoke about being a gun collector — he’d recently gotten rid of much of his collection, but he still had hundreds locked up in a cistern in his house.
He then showed one undercover officer a sten submachine gun that was located with a revolver. Croft handed the officer a high-capacity magazine for the sten gun.
The officer also spotted a ball-and-chain mace.
Croft also offered the officers a tip on how to smuggle guns into Canada from the U.S. — buy about $150 in groceries, put the gun under the seat with the groceries on top, tell the border officer you went grocery shopping, show your receipt and get waved through.
Police got a warrant and searched Croft’s property and found the following:
The ball-and-chain mace, various knives — stiletto, butterfly and switchblade style — brass knuckles and a stun gun.
In the home, police found three rifles, a shotgun, a revolver with ammunition, plus the submachine gun with a high-capacity magazine in the garage.
Also in the garage was a locker that contained two rifles and three shotguns.
Numerous pellet rifles and pistols, non-functional firearms, ammo, soft body armour and a baton were seized from the garage, home and a workshop.
Based on those facts, Justice John Menzies accepted Croft’s guilty pleas to unauthorized possession of a prohibited weapon, unsafe storage of firearms, and unauthorized possession of firearms.
He also admitted to possession of a restricted firearm with readily accessible ammunition — a sentence that carries a mandatory minimum of three years in prison.
That charge specifically refers to a .22-calibre Colt revolver found with ammo on the shelf of a cabinet in a bedroom.
In his notice of constitutional question, Rodrigue argues that the mandatory minimum is cruel and unusual punishment and violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Constitution Act.
It’s a similar argument to that advanced during another Manitoba case, that of Mario Adamo.
In September 2013, Adamo was given six months time served and probation on a weapons charge by Justice Colleen Suche, who ruled the mandatory three-year prison term unfit.
Manitoba Justice is appealing that decision.
Menzies ordered a pre-sentence report for Croft and sentencing is to be set for a later date. For now, the case has been adjourned to June 16.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 13, 2014