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Athabasca man caught with sawed-off .22 receives conditional sentence

James Donald Bell pleads guilty to careless use/storage and possession of a prohibited/restricted weapon

ATHABASCA – An Athabasca-area man caught with a loaded, sawed-off .22-calbre rifle during an RCMP raid last March faces six-months of 24-hour-a-day house arrest as part of an 18-month conditional sentence.

In Athabasca Provincial Court March 6, James Donald Bell pleaded guilty to careless use/storage of a firearm and unauthorized possession of a prohibited/restricted weapon, while two additional counts of unauthorized possession of a prohibited/restricted weapon, along with a charge of possession of a prohibited/restricted weapon with ammunition were withdrawn by Crown prosecutor Patricia Hankinson.

Judge Joanne Heudes agreed to a joint-sentence submission from Hankinson and defence lawyer Lonnie Allen that’ll see Bell serve an 18-month conditional sentence that includes six months of 24-hour-a-day house arrest, followed by 12 months of a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew — Hankinson noted Bell has a limited criminal record spanning the years 1998 to 2001. In addition to being banned from consuming drugs or alcohol as part of the conditions of his probation, Bell had until March 10 to surrender any other weapons to the RCMP and cannot own any firearms for the next decade.

“You have a dated record and although it’s not necessarily related to what we’re dealing with today other than I see there may have been issues with substance abuse in the past,” said Judge Heudes, noting the matter had been scheduled to go to trial that day.

Court heard that on March 11, 2022, Athabasca RCMP executed a search warrant at Bell’s home and found a loaded, sawed-off .22 calibre rifle and ammunition in his bedroom.

“The accused did not possess a valid licence to possess such a firearm and the sawed-off was not properly stored and does meet the definition of a prohibited weapon,” said Hankinson.

While anything taken by RCMP that day was forfeit to Crown, Bell did ask for and got back $170 that had been seized during the raid.

George Blais,