© Geraldine Brophy
Robert Greening enters provincial court in Corner Brook on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013.
CORNER BROOK — Robert Greening says he never imported illegal weapons from China for nefarious reasons.
Still, his poor judgement to do so while under the influence of alcohol means he will be getting at least 12 months in prison .
The 43-year-old man from Irishtown began serving his sentence Thursday after Judge Wayne Gorman heard the facts around the eight charges to which Greening entered guilty pleas in December.
The charges stem from a series of packages destined for Greening’s mailing address that were intercepted following an investigation by the Canada Border Services Agency into one package containing a stun gun intercepted at the Vancouver International Mail Centre last June.
Greening was arrested in early September. More packages were intercepted after his arrest.
The offences under the Customs Act and the Criminal Code of Canada included importing prohibited weapons into the country and possession of a prohibited weapon. One charge relates to Greening’s admission that he destroyed a stun gun he had received prior to being arrested because it did not come with an AC charger.
A conviction for importing a prohibited weapon comes with a minimum sentence of 12 months in prison.
Provincial Crown attorney Trina Simms asked Gorman to sentence Greening to between 12 and 18 months in prison, followed by one year of probation. Federal Crown attorney Kelly Langthorne, who prosecuted the four Customs Act offences, asked for a total fine of $5,000.
There is no minimum sentence for the federal offences, which carry a maximum fine of $50,000 or six months in prison for each offence.
As a result of the interception in Vancouver, agency investigators in Newfoundland and Labrador, assisted by postal inspectors from Canada Post's Security and Investigation Service, seized six additional international mail shipments that were found to contain prohibited weapons and devices destined for Greening’s address.
The items seized included 12 stun guns, a set of brass knuckles and two Taser transmission cartridges.
Defence lawyer Keir O’Flaherty told the judge that Greening was not involved in gang- or drug-related activity and did not make the purchases with the intention of selling them for profit. Rather, he said Greening — who the court heard is a frequent online shopper — had been drinking when he decided to make these purchases compulsively.
O’Flaherty, who said Greening was simply collecting the weapons, told Gorman that his client unsuccessfully tried to cancel the purchases after they had been made. He provided the court with a series of emails documenting those attempts, which dated back to more than a month before his arrest.
“He was unable to close the door once he opened it by making the purchases,” O’Flaherty told Gorman.
Acknowledging Greening will have to be given at least one year in prison, O’Flaherty urged Gorman for the lower range of the 12 to 18 months the provincial Crown was seeking. In terms of the fines for the federal offences, O’Flaherty asked that Greening be given two years to pay whatever fines the court imposed.
Greening was given an opportunity to address the court, but told Gorman he had nothing to say.
Gorman will make his decision on sentencing Monday.