The 18-month sentence imposed in 2018 on alleged Kamloops gangster Jason Robertson has been upheld by B.C.’s highest court — but part of the ruling marks the first time a Canadian court has found the mandatory minimum sentence for possession of a stolen firearm to be unconstitutional.
Jason Robertson managed to convince a three-judge B.C. Court of Appeal panel that the mandatory one-year sentence for possession of a stolen firearm is unconstitutional, but failed to convince the court that his 18-month sentence was unfair.
That sentence was handed down two years ago after Robertson was convicted of five weapons- and property-related offences, as well as one count of identity theft.
Robertson had originally been facing more than 50 charges, but most were thrown out by a B.C. Supreme Court judge due to Charter breaches and what was deemed “over-seizures.”
The initial charges were laid after Mounties in 2014 raided three homes owned by Robertson. Following the raids, Mounties took reporters to an evidence room at the Kamloops RCMP detachment and displayed dozens of firearms and electronics seized from Robertson, as well as cash and drugs.
Investigators said at the time that the operation was gang-related and Hells Angels support decals were visible on some of the seized items.
In convicting Robertson, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Jeanne Watchuk said she believed Robertson to have been involved in drug trafficking, though he was not facing any drug-related charges. Watchuk also ordered police to return 34 legally owned firearms seized by police during their raid of Robertson’s home.
In Wednesday’s decision upholding Robertson’s sentence, B.C. Court of Appeal Justice David Frankel said the 18-month term should not be varied.
Robertson had been seeking to shorten it to six months. Defence lawyers Marshall Putnam and Eric Purtski argued the two stolen firearms in his possession were more collector’s item than weapons. The guns were described in court as being commemorative rifles.
Frankel said he believed the stolen firearms conviction deserved a nine-month sentence rather than 18 months, but added the cumulative sentence of 18 months on all counts was appropriate.
“The issue for this court is not whether 18 months is a demonstrably unfit sentence for possession of two stolen rifles, but whether it is a demonstrably unfit global sentence for all the offences of which Mr. Robertson was convicted,” Frankel said. “In my view, it is not.”