By Jennifer Saltman, The Province
New Westminster — A Surrey RCMP officer convicted on gun-possession charges has been sentenced to a conditional discharge and 18 months of probation.
David Matthew Clarke, 41, appeared in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster on Monday for his sentencing on two counts of possession of a restricted or non-restricted firearm knowing its possession is unauthorized.
According to reasons for sentence read in court by Justice Elizabeth Arnold-Bailey, in October 2010 Clarke’s romantic partner contacted police about some items that he had allegedly improperly seized in the course of his duties as a police officer.
At the time, Clarke was a constable with 4 1/2 years of service.
Police searched his home in Surrey and a house in Chilliwack that Clarke lived at part time with his partner and her children.
In a corner of the garage of the Chilliwack home, officers found a “large, haphazard” pile of items belonging to Clarke, including a FN FAL semi-automatic rifle, a Remington Colt-style semi-automatic handgun, a non-functioning assault rifle, orange traffic pylons, identification belonging to a number of people and 3,600 rounds of ammunition.
Clarke’s partner gave police an evidence bag containing seized marijuana and confiscated bottles of liquor that were stored inside the house.
Items seized from Clarke’s home in Surrey were excluded after Arnold-Bailey ruled that the search violated Clarke’s Charter right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure.
Arnold-Bailey noted the defence submitted at sentencing that Clarke was stressed and anxious at the time of the offences, and he was unable to complete his work properly.
The marijuana, alcohol and identification had been seized during investigations and should have been properly submitted to the RCMP. Clarke’s mother gave the weapons, which had belonged to Clarke’s father, to Clarke in late 2009 for disposal. He hadn’t got around to it by the time of the search.
Arnold-Bailey said that as a person familiar with firearms, Clarke made a conscious decision to continue his unlawful possession of the guns and to store them in an unsafe manner. However, she accepted that the offences arose from Clarke’s psychological issues related to stress and anxiety, combined with obsessive-compulsive personality traits, as opposed to “more sinister, criminal motives.”
The Crown had asked for a 60-day conditional sentence, while the defence had argued for an absolute discharge. Arnold-Bailey said a discharge was in Clarke’s best interest, and not contrary to the public interest.
“I am of the view that fostering his continued rehabilitation is the overarching sentencing principle to be considered here,” she said.
A conditional discharge means that if Clarke completes his probation he will not have a criminal record.
Clarke has been suspended from his duties with the RCMP since October 2010 and remains suspended without pay.