By Tina Comeau
A provincial court judge declined the offer of a demonstration in court of the power of one of 32 confiscated stun guns that has resulted in a mandatory minimum one-year jail sentence for a Shelburne County man.
Being already told by the Crown that the stun guns each carried a charge of 3.5 million volts was sufficient for the court.
Scott Wade Nickerson, 24, of Lockeport, was sentenced after entering guilty pleas in Yarmouth provincial court on March 19 to two charges dealing with the importation of prohibitive weapons into Canada – one charge was under the Criminal Code, another was under the Customs Act. Nineteen other charges on the docket were withdrawn.
While the number of intercepted stun guns was described as an aggravating feature, regardless of whether it had been 32 stun guns, or just one, the fact is it is against the law to own or possess stun guns in Canada.
Hugh Robichaud, representing the federal Crown, outlined the circumstances of the case. The charges resulted from an investigation by Canada Border Services Agency, with the assistance of the security division of Canada Post.
On Dec. 28, 2011, border officers examined a package being shipped from China to Nickerson at a Halifax address. The address was a postal box at the Shoppers Drug Mart on Lacewood Drive, which was confirmed as belonging to Nickerson. The package contained five stun guns that were identified as Super Voltage Pulse 800-type direct-current ultra high voltage stun guns.
When border officers conducted a check on Nickerson and the address it was discovered there had been a previous seizure of prohibited goods going to that address.
On Jan. 12, 2012, employees of the Shoppers Drug Mart confirmed that a photograph shown to them of Nickerson was the same person who had the postal box. The security division of Canada Post was notified. The following day the division alerted investigators that two more parcels were being sent to Nickerson at the same address. A parcel from China contained six stun guns. Another from Hong Kong contained 11.
A few days later staff at the Shoppers Drug Mart told investigators that Nickerson had been inquiring about the packages.
On Jan. 24, 2012, another parcel addressed to Nickerson was intercepted, this one containing 10 stun guns. Stun guns are prohibited weapons under Canadian law. Nickerson was arrested on Jan. 25, 2012.
It was never said in court what Nickerson was intending to do with the stun guns and the Canada Border Services Agency says it won’t speculate about his intentions. Nickerson’s lawyer Martin Pink also said he didn’t know what his client planned to do with them.
Still, given the amount involved the Crown told the court, “It is apparent that these importations were not for Mr. Nickerson’s own personal use as the number of restricted weapons is considerable. One can only surmise that these restricted weapons were earmarked for redistribution.”
Robichaud said that the importation of prohibited weapons is very serious and creates concerns over public safety. Although stun guns are not the same as a firearm he said “they are still to be taken very seriously.”
Tim Moser, a detective-sergeant with the National Weapons Enforcement Support Team in Halifax echoes this sentiment.
“Is it dangerous? Absolutely. It can be used to incapacitate a person,” he said. Moser stressed that the public is not permitted to own or possess stun guns. “It’s a prohibited weapon and it’s illegal to have in Canada, regardless of the numbers,” he said.
Yet on the Internet stun guns are pretty easy to access and relatively inexpensive. Some websites advertise the model that Nickerson had as retailing for prices ranging from $12.99 to $24.99. If you buy them in bulk you can purchase them for around $6 a piece.
Aside from basic black, stun guns are advertised as coming in pink. “Great for joggers or to keep in a car or purse,” reads one selling feature. “With flashlight function, it is convenient to use in the evening,” reads another.
“That’s part of the problem with the World Wide Web, you can access anything anywhere in the world,” Moser said. While stun guns may be allowed in other countries, Moser said people have to be aware of what is illegal to import into Canada.
The court has ordered forfeiture of these stun guns. The Canada Border Services Agency says they will be destroyed. There had also been pepper spray seized as well.
Following the sentencing Nickerson’s lawyer said his client hopes to be out of jail in time to go lobster fishing in the fall. Prior to this Nickerson had no criminal record.
(Once uploaded, you can click on the video link included with this post to see a short demo by a Canada Services Agency Border investigator shown to reporters outside of the courtroom of how the stun gun works.)