Michael Fernandes Jefferson, 24, was sentenced on Monday to 10 years’ imprisonment for possession of an unlicensed firearm – a gun and ammunition – which the jury was told was not in working order.
The sentence was the mandatory minimum after a not guilty plea; Justice Charles Quin found no exceptional circumstance that might lower the term of imprisonment imposed.
The jury found Jefferson guilty of having a .38 Bryco pistol and two rounds of ammunition at his Newlands residence on June 11, 2015, when officers with a search warrant recovered it.
In passing sentence, Justice Quin noted his instructions to jurors, who tried the case in July. The question was whether the item was a lethal-barrel weapon. He asked the jury whether it could so easily be adapted as to be capable of discharging a missile. It was up to the jury to decide if it was a firearm, he said, and the verdict returned had been unanimous.
There was evidence during the trial that the firing pin had been deliberately cut so that the gun could not operate, but it would be easy to fix or replace.
Defense attorney Laurence Aiolfi argued that a member of the public might find information on the internet about how to put the gun in working condition, and then get a new firing pin, but that process would require research, effort and time to acquire the new part.
The gun was not something that could be immediately repaired, he pointed out, and there was no evidence that Jefferson had the knowledge or the tools or had made any inquiries. Without the knowledge or the tools, the gun was useless, he submitted.
Further, there was no evidence that Jefferson had any intent to injure anyone and no evidence he was involved in any illegal activity. He had good personal references and no previous convictions for firearms. Senior Crown counsel Nicole Petit said the fact that the gun was not used by Jefferson in the commission of an offense was not a special circumstance. “We say mere possession is prohibited,” she told the court.
Further, she argued, strong personal mitigation on its own was unlikely to be an exceptional circumstance. Otherwise, those who wanted to hide weapons would choose people “who might excite the sympathies of the court,” Ms. Petit suggested.
Justice Quin said he had considered all the factors raised by Mr. Aiolfi, but none was an exceptional circumstance. Being a good provider for one’s family is not an exceptional circumstance, he noted. It was well known what a scourge guns are to any society, he pointed out, and people who contravene the law must expect that a sentence will impact their family.
Protection of the public demanded nothing less than the minimum sentence, he concluded, and, regrettably, he could do nothing but apply the law. “I don’t have any choice in the matter,” he said in handing down 10 years.