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Conditional sentence for gun crime not appropriate: judge

|Written By Shannon Kari

A 65-year-old businessman with health issues and no prior criminal record has been sentenced to 21 months in jail for the illegal possession of a loaded handgun, stored in a dresser in the bedroom of his Toronto-area home.

‘The criminal possession of handguns remains an all too prevalent threat to the people of Toronto,’ wrote the judge.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Ken Campbell agreed there were personal mitigating circumstances in the case of Panagiotis (Peter) Boussoulas, but concluded that any form of conditional sentence would be inappropriate.

“The important message must be sent to the public that whatever their reasons, individuals must not unlawfully arm themselves with dangerous loaded firearms, or they will face serious custodial circumstances,” said Campbell, in the March 9 ruling.

Boussoulas will also be subject to a two-year term of probation, after he is released from custody.

The Superior Court judge rejected arguments by defence lawyer Randall Barrs that his client should receive a suspended sentence and a period of probation.

Boussoulas is going to appeal both the conviction and sentence. “the moral turpitude here is quite low,” says Barrs, who adds that his client was granted bail this week pending appeal, by a judge of the court of appeal.

The sentencing ruling was issued as the lower courts await the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision on whether mandatory minimums in the Criminal Code for illegal possession of a loaded weapon are unconstitutional. In November 2013, the Ontario Court of Appeal struck down the minimums in R v. Nur. 

The provisions imposed a minimum three-year sentence for a first conviction and five years for a subsequent finding of guilt.

The 21-month-jail term set out by Campbell is actually one of the lowest sentences imposed for this offence since the mandatory minimums were struck down in Ontario.

Provincial Court Justice David Cole handed down the equivalent of a 22-month sentence in R v. Ishmael, along with 475 hours of community service and two-years probation. The Ontario Court of Appeal, in R v. T.A.P., imposed a global sentence of two years less day, of which 21 months was to be served in the community, to a 45-year-old aboriginal woman with no prior criminal record.

A survey of reported cases since Nur was released indicates the gun possession sentences are normally at the level of the previously enacted mandatory minimums, or higher.

Vince Scaramuzza, who was defence counsel in Ishmael, says judges take gun offences very seriously.

“We may not have mandatory minimums, but the sentences are still very close to where it was,” says Scaramuzza.

The sentence imposed on his client was in part because he was a young adult, with no criminal convictions and strong family support, he says.

In the prosecution of Boussoulas, the court heard he owned a successful manufacturing business he operated with his two sons. In 2010, police raided a rental property owned by Boussoulas and discovered a large marijuana grow operation inside. Boussoulas admitted buying a .45 calibre Colt handgun illegally, but said it was to protect his family after receiving threats because of his potential involvement as a witness in the marijuana prosecution.

The handgun was discovered by police in December 2011 while executing a search warrant at the family home, based on information the defendant’s son Christopher, was in unlawful possession of firearms.

There were 18 members of the Toronto Police emergency task force unit involved in the 12:15 a.m. execution of the search warrant. Many of the officers wore balaclavas or night vision goggles, as they entered the large residential home. Campbell was told police believed evidence would be destroyed if the “dynamic entry” took place during the daytime. The Colt handgun was the only weapon recovered.

Campbell concluded that police acted “quite reasonably” in the raid and that a “knock and announce” method of executing the search warrant could have “compromised the safety” of the officers and the Boussoulas family.

On appeal, Barrs says the validity of the search warrant and information from a confidential informant will be at issue. The defence lawyer also questions the way the warrant was executed.

“It is the middle of the night, you are in bed with your wife, and the next thing you know, the door is knocked down, an army is coming through, and everyone is handcuffed,” says Barrs.

Campbell described Boussoulas as “a hard-working, contributing member of society” and a good family man. However, even for a first offender, a sentence of close to two years is a starting point, the judge stated.

“The criminal possession of handguns remains an all too prevalent threat to the people of Toronto,” wrote Campbell. “The public must be adequately protected.”

Update 5:30 pm: Comments from Barrs and Scaramuzza added.

  • Mr.

    Bill Cunningham
    My handguns must be defective. I've owned them for almost 50 years, and they have never harmed anyone. The closest they ever came to a threat was back in the 60's. My late mother, alone at home, had some drunk trying to beat down our apartment door. She yelled that she had her sons pistol in her hands, and if he came through the door he would be a dead man. The drunk stopped instantly. My mother did not have my gun, it was locked away. But just the threat of being able to defend herself stopped this drunken fool dead in his tracks. How many other women would be alive today if they had the means to defend themselves. Hand Guns in the hands of honest people SAVE lives.
  • RE: Conditional sentence for gun crime not appropriate: judge

    Kingsley Beattie
    See OUR VIEWS in March 17 Ottawa Citizen. Judge Campbell would agree that it is terribly dangerous to allow law abiding citizens to use a firearm to defend self and home. That "may" be reasonable if the police automatically pay damages to any one who suffers from criminal attacks and home invasions.
  • RE: Conditional sentence for gun crime not appropriate: judge

    grey wolf
    the judge is an ASS and needs to retire his self-righteous butt off the bench ! unsuitable for office of a judge !
  • These kind of sentences in these particular types of cases is angering the public.

    Randy Sandman
    For one, the mere possession of a firearm was not illegal until these tyrants made it so. Just because something is the law, doesn't make it right and doesn't make it moral. Many of us do not appreciate this psychotic mentality that we should rely solely on police for protection. It is unreasonable and way out of touch with reality. I am not our sheep. I reserve the right to protect me and my own how I see fit. Your laws don't prevent crime. They create crime. Fuck you!
  • Mr

    Andy J
    The police are just lucky he did not use the handgun for what he bought it for, you crash down a guys door...loaded pistol it just luck he did not shoot these home invaders. I am sure that if the police knocked at his door with a warrant that a family member would run to the bedroom , grab the gun and start shooting police or flushing guns down the toilet....the crown did say they were worried about officer safety .So instead they show up like we live in a 3 rd world country ruled by a military Junta.
  • RE: Conditional sentence for gun crime not appropriate: judge

    Harry Jaaskelainen
    This "police state" type activity is disgusting and the result of our idiotic gun laws. What one has in his/her home for self-defense should not be the target of a midnight "kick-the-door-in" raid by riot police. This handgun was no threat to public safety; only to a criminal breaking in to this families home.
  • FEDUP

    Cory M
    Canadian Law in a nut shell! Make an example out of good people, go easy on the bad. Violent criminals walk among us, known to police, and they throw good guys in jail for having a loaded gun IN HIS HOME! A paper criminal in the minds of Canadian bureaucrats.

    “The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail, its roof may shake; the wind may blow through it; the storm may enter, the rain may enter -- but the King of England cannot enter; all his force dares not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement!” William Pitt
  • RE: Conditional sentence for gun crime not appropriate: judge

    Aub M
    Agree with Dave W. Seems interesting that a well known criminal was caught with his loaded pistol laying on the front seat of his corvette, when stopped by police. No charges?? Only in Canader; you say?
  • sigh

    sigh me
    "“The criminal possession of handguns remains an all too prevalent threat to the people of Toronto,” wrote Campbell. “The public must be adequately protected.”


    If the public was permitted to protect themselves then these "criminals with guns" would not be criminals would they?

    Cops with guns are NOT there to protect the public- they have no duty to protect anyone, it is not part of their job (see supreme court decision). They enforce laws and look for who murdered you......

    Only you can defend you, it is your right, is should not be illegal.

    Every item that could be used to defend one's life in Canada is illegal to own by anyone for self defense, period. Look it up

    this law is what is criminal
  • More social programing bring back "castle doctrine"

    L Dalla Gassa
    “The criminal possession of handguns remains an all too prevalent threat to the people of Toronto.... Criminal possession so just the holding of this item is a crime though no one was harmed ... the firearm was for his and his familys protection no one in toronto was harmed by this individuals posession of this item. The only People who are in danger of this item are the criminals who treatened him and his family. Again the courts protect the criminals and punish the people. need these to be tried in front of a jury and the acused should be able to present ... jury nullification as a defense against the incorrect application of this charge.
  • Disgusting

    Dave Z
    Ken Campbell's attitude that is. I bet he thinks only he and his elitist friends should be able to protect themselves from criminals. The unwashed masses should have to cower and call 911 giving the criminals ample time to do them harm before anyone arrives on scene.
    It is also disgusting that this law and conviction is basically for a victim-less crime. Had he actually shot someone in an offensive capacity, meaning not during a self defense situation, then that is where the gun charges should apply.
    Unbelievable that people are prohibited from defending themselves.

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