By Shurtz, Delon on December 18, 2019.
A 21-year-old Taber-area resident who has been waiting for three months to find out if he’ll remain a free man or spend time in jail for firing a high-powered rifle from his pickup truck, has finally learned his fate.
He’s a free man.
Bernhard Giesbrecht, who pleaded guilty in September to unlawful use and unsafe storage of a firearm, hoped to receive a conditional discharge. The Crown, on the other hand, had recommended a four-month jail sentence, and told the judge in September had it not been for Giesbrecht’s guilty plea and lack of criminal record, he would have suggested the maximum sentence of six months to reflect the severity of the offence and the risk of someone being struck by a bullet.
But Tuesday in Lethbridge provincial court, Crown prosecutor Tyler Raymond directed a stay of proceeding, which halts further action on the matter, without a conviction, even though the stay can be reversed within a year.
The charge was laid following an incident last March in which a witness saw three vehicles driving in the rural area near Purple Springs east of Taber, and saw Giesbrecht fire a rifle from a pickup truck. Police were notified and located the vehicles a short time later, and after a brief pursuit the suspects stopped and Giesbrecht was identified as the driver of the truck.
Giesbrecht was not legally impaired to drive at the time, but he had been drinking, and police searched the truck and found a loaded Winchester .270-calibre rifle, as well as live and spent ammunition. Giesbrecht admitted firing two rounds from the truck.
Lethbridge lawyer James Rouleau had sought a conditional discharge for his client, which would not have resulted in a criminal conviction as long as Giesbrecht adhered to conditions of a probation order. Rouleau pointed out in September Giesbrecht knows how to properly use a firearm, but he doesn’t have an explanation for his behaviour.
“He acted stupidly,” Rouleau said.
Rouleau urged the judge not to incarcerate the young man, and pointed out his actions with the rifle didn’t impact anyone else or destroy any property, and they don’t warrant a criminal record. He said Giesbrecht is sorry for what he did and was willing to forfeit the rifle for destruction and, as part of conditions of his probation, be prohibited from possessing weapons for 10 years.
Judge Eric Brooks ordered a pre-sentence report, which is prepared following an assessment of an offender’s background and personal circumstances to help the judge render a fit sentence.
That report is what turned the tide for Giesbrecht.
Raymond said Tuesday the probation officer who prepared the report spoke highly of the accused and said he was one of the most responsible and remorseful individuals she had ever worked with while conducting an assessment. Giesbrecht even secured employment and a residence for his family after his father died.
“He has done everything and beyond what we would expect for someone his age,” Raymond said.
While Crown prosecutors rarely explain why they direct a stay, Raymond said he felt it was necessary in this case, given Giesbrecht’s previous guilty plea and the Crown’s previous recommendation for jail.
Judges rarely comment on a stay of proceeding, as well, but Judge Brooks, who had also read the glowing pre-sentence report, pointed out he agrees with the Crown’s decision.
“I think the decision by the Crown is well-considered and in the highest interest of justice,” Brooks said. ”
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