A man caught with a can of bear spray in his backpack at the summer fair was given the chance to earn back a clean record on Monday.
Jonathan MacWilliam-Flett, 19, pleaded guilty in Brandon provincial court to possession of a prohibited weapon and failing to attend court.
On June 5, police conducted a pedestrian check on MacWilliam-Flett and two other men at the Manitoba Summer Fair, Crown attorney Kaley Tschetter said, due to MacWilliam-Flett matching the description of a suspect in an assault complaint they received earlier that evening.
MacWilliam-Flett wasn’t the individual police were looking for, defence lawyer Ryan Fawcett noted, and no charges were laid related to an assault.
When stopped, MacWilliam-Flett was wearing a backpack that police searched, Tschetter said, where they found a can of bear spray with black electrical tape wrapped around the canister.
MacWilliam-Flett was arrested and scheduled to appear in court in August, which he did not attend.
He turned himself in approximately a week later.
"The Crown believes deterrence needs to be the focus, not only for Mr. MacWilliam-Flett but for the community at large," Tschetter said. "The message needs to be sent that you’re not to be in possession of bear spray unless you meet the exceptions as per the code. In this particular set of circumstances, Mr. MacWilliam-Flett had no reason to be in possession of bear spray while at the summer fair."
While the Crown asked the court to consider a sentence of fines and probation, Fawcett argued MacWilliam-Flett was eligible for a conditional discharge — allowing him the opportunity to earn back a clean record by following court ordered conditions for a period of time.
MacWilliam-Flett obtained the bear spray while intoxicated, Fawcett said, and was carrying it for protection.
"He was fearful for his personal safety at that time and was carrying the bear spray for his own protection," Fawcett said, adding that there were no reports that he ever used the bear spray.
"We see bear mace introduced into a lot of the incidents that we deal with in court, it’s far too common a substance that people seem to believe they’re entitled to carry," Judge John Combs said. "The excuse that you’re carrying it for protection is not acceptable. If you’re carrying it for protection, that means you’re prepared to use it."
Combs ultimately agreed a conditional discharge would be appropriate, given MacWilliam-Flett’s lack of a criminal record.
He was sentenced to a one-year conditional discharge as well as 20 hours of community service.
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