New & Notable: Ontario Court of Appeal opines, yet again: guns and drugs don't mix

Wong was convicted of ten gun and drug related offences.  One of them was possession of a loaded firearm (s. 95(1) of the Criminal Code), which carried a mandatory minimum 3 year jail sentence.  He received a global sentence of 3 years on all of the gun and drug charges.  The Ontario Court of Appeal overturned his conviction on the s. 95(1) charge on the basis that the trial judge erred in finding that possession of an unloaded firearm with readily accessible ammunition was included in the offence of possession of a loaded firearm. [2012 ONCA 432]  Not surprisingly, Wong sought to appeal his sentence.  With the mandatory minimum sentence no longer at play, he argued that a 3 year sentence was excessive and sought a conditional sentence.  The Court of Appeal said no: 2012 ONCA 767.


The trial judge was clear in his reasons that the overall length of sentence was determined by the mandatory minimum.  Wong argued that he was 23, had no record and had been on house arrest for one and a half years pending trial.  He said that his drug trafficking only lasted for 2-3 days and that he was not a danger to society [paras 5 and 7].

In finding the 3 year sentence on the remaining drug and gun offences fit, the Court of Appeal relied on the evidence at trial that Wong was selling drugs for money and used his sawed off shotgun to ply his trade.  It is important to remember that the conviction for the most serious gun offence was overturned because of the wording of the charge on the Information, which the Crown did not seek to amend.  So, it remained open to the Court of Appeal to rely on the evidence at trial that Wong possessed the gun with ammunition, stored very close by, that was capable of discharge by that gun.  They also considered the large quantity of drugs and cash and the scales found in Wong’s bedroom as evidence that he was a drug dealer – likely at it for more than 2 days. [para. 8-10]

The Court then went on to highlight and emphasize the growing intolerance for the risks associated with drug dealing and those who do it:

“The courts have repeatedly emphasized that the toxic combination of drugs and guns poses a pernicious and persisting threat to public safety and the welfare of the community.  The social ills, including associated criminal conduct, fuelled by this combination is now well recognized.

These offences called out for an exemplary sentence to achieve the important sentencing goals of denunciation and deterrence.  Indeed, the firearms offences, standing alone, warranted a significant jail term.  See R. v. Danvers, [2005] O.J. No. 3532. [paras. 11 and 12]

The Court specified that the combination of drugs and guns is, in and of itself, an aggravating factor on sentencing. [para. 13]

While Wong was indeed a first offender with admirable plans for his future, the Court commented that he was not a particularly youthful offender (24 at time of sentencing) and his bail terms were not particularly strict.  He was allowed to go to work in the company of a family member.  The Court commented “that is not strict house arrest.” [para. 14]