By Mark NIELSEN / Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The discovery of a prohibited firearm on his property has led to a 26-month jail sentence for a McBride-area man.

Steven Richard Stewart was issued the term Thursday at the Prince George courthouse.

On June 8, 2018, a man and a woman walked into the McBride RCMP detachment to report that Stewart had threatened to beat the man up and burn down his house. They also told RCMP that Stewart had a shotgun prompting North District RCMP’s emergency response team to be called to the property.

Stewart was arrested and a sawed-off shotgun with a pistol grip and a flashlight taped to it was found as was a sling holding 20 rounds of ammunition in the back of an SUV parked on the property. RCMP also found a number of bladed weapons and several marijuana plants.

Stewart pleaded guilty to possessing a prohibited weapon and uttering threats. He maintained he kept the shotgun for protection and claimed $3,000 worth of pit bull puppies he had been raising had been stolen from him.

Defence counsel had argued for a two-year conditional sentence order, in which the sentence is served at home with conditions such as a curfew, followed by three years probation, noting in part that he is employed, has lived up to his bail conditions since he was released from custody and has been working to deal with his substance abuse issues.

However, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ron Tindale agreed with Crown prosecution’s position that the offence warranted 30 months in jail. Less credit of four months for time served in custody, that left Stewart with 26 months left to serve.

While sentences for the offence can range from 18 months for regulatory infractions to 10 years for serious criminal offences, Tindale found that Stewart’s actions amounted to an offence at the “low end of the true crime spectrum.”

Tindale also dismissed defence counsel’s argument that Stewart’s behaviour since his release was enough to warrant the “exceptional circumstances” needed to reduce the sentence to two years and thus allow a conditional sentence order.

A record of previous criminal offences and limited expressions of remorse, insight and responsibility for the crime worked against Stewart.

“Mr. Stewart has worked hard but at this point, I cannot conclude that he has truly turned his life around,” Tindale said.

Stewart was also issued a 10-year firearms prohibition and ordered to provide a DNA sample.