Homemade handgun excuse rejected
A MAGISTRATE has rubbished a convicted robber's claim he stumbled on a loaded handgun in parkland at Mount Pleasant before he was arrested with the weapon in a shopping centre.
Kane Charles Bell told police he had been walking to a mate's house on Whistler Way when he happened upon the homemade pistol, with a bullet in the chamber, and a tobacco pouch full of ammunition in a plastic bag.
The 23-year-old claimed he had no phone on him at the time to contact police and that he placed the gun and ammunition in a backpack, intending to hand the firearm over to his mum.
But police approached Bell at Mount Pleasant Centre over outstanding traffic matters and he declared the weapon was stashed in his bag.
Officers called for back-up, the weapon and ammunition was seized and the Andergrove man was subsequently charged with unlawfully possessing a handgun in public on November 3.
Bell initially pleaded guilty in the Mackay Magistrates Court, via videolink from prison, on April 10, and a part-heard sentence was ultimately adjourned.
Now, Bell's sentence has been finalised, resulting in a 12-month prison term.
Bell is due to be released on parole on November 2, considering he has already spent 200 days behind bars.
During the hearing on Friday, and after a rehashing of the facts, defence barrister Phillip Moore told the court Bell's "purpose was innocent" and his client had voluntarily handed the gun to police at the shopping centre.
However, Mr Moore did concede Bell had a chequered criminal record, which included at least one entry for robbery.
The barrister called for Bell to serve the minimum mandatory prison term of one year.
Mr Moore described the case as not particularly serious compared to precedent cases handed up.
When it came time for Magistrate Damien Dwyer to hand down his penalty, he lambasted Bell over his version of events.
"I've often said in this place, I've been living in Mackay all my life. I go for strolls on a regular basis around the town ... I've never ever come across a gun in the park, a gun with a bullet in the barrel and a magazine attached - and I thought I got around this town pretty good," he said.
"I've never kicked my toe on a gun. But all of a sudden people with (criminal) histories, of robberies with violence, of dangerous driving, and all the other matters you have, Mr Bell ... suddenly you're just walking through a park and you find a gun?
"Do you think I was born yesterday, Mr Bell? Well, I wasn't and I don't accept what you have said.
"You have a terrible history."
Mr Dwyer followed with a glowing appraisal of Australia's strict gun laws, which he said were key to preventing shootings and massacres so prevalent in the United States.
"Mr Bell, Australia does not have a weapons culture like they have in America, and long may it be preserved," he exclaimed.
"We don't want to go through the rubbish they're going through in America here. Mugs like you going around with guns in your backpack is simply not on ...
"As I say, many people talk about the difference between Australia and America and the level of shootings, it's because of our gun laws and it's up to the courts to make sure they're complied with."
Mr Dwyer sentenced Bell to 12 months jail, but said he would be released on immediate parole, considering time already served.
Bell's face lit up and he thanked the magistrate, but he was soon hit with a curve-ball.
Mr Moore reminded Mr Dwyer the law states the full 12 month minimum term must be served in such cases.
"Sorry, your honour ... there's mandatory 12 months actual time to be served," Mr Moore said.
Mr Dwyer apologised and informed Bell he would actually be released on parole on November 2.
Bell stormed out of the room in prison, evidently displeased.