By Cheryl Wierda
A former Lake Country man who was previously a member of the Independent Soldiers gang has been sentenced to five and a half years in prison for drug and weapons offences.
During a nearly 90 minute sentencing decision Friday, Justice Barry Davies concluded that Donahugh McWhirter, 48, was a “low to mid level” drug dealer who had been recruiting other dealers and providing them with drugs, and that he was, at minimum, affiliated with the Independent Soldiers prior to his November 2014 arrest.
“The Crown has not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that…he remained a member after November 2014,” said Davies, noting that he also did not support a finding that McWhirter’s offences were done to benefit a criminal organization.
McWhirter had been under police surveillance in the latter part of 2014 before police searched his vehicle in a traffic stop in Merritt on Nov. 4, 2014 and discovered a “large quantity” of drugs.
Police found MDMA with a street value of $130,950 and methamphetamine with a street value of $180,850, the court heard during McWhirter’s sentencing hearing on Friday.
A search of his Lake Country home in January 2015 also turned up a rifle and a shotgun, which had been vacuum-sealed.
On the eve of his trial in February, McWhirter pleaded guilty to two counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking and four weapons offences.
In sentencing McWhirter, Davies supported the Crown submission that McWhirter be given four years in jail for the two drug trafficking charges.
However, he diverged from the Crown’s request when considering the sentences for the four weapons offences.
He sentenced McWhirter to 12 months for the unauthorized possession of a firearm charges, to be served after the drug sentence, and gave him another six months for two counts of possession of a firearm contrary to an order. (McWhirter had been given a firearms ban in 2012 after being sentenced on assault offences).
The three years sought by the Crown for unauthorized possession of a firearm, Davies concluded, “is not supported by the evidence or the authorities heard.”
“There is no evidence that those firearms were used in any way in that [drug] activity,” said Davies.
To link them, he said, would result “in a higher level of culpability than is warranted in the circumstance.”
As well, the guns, although operational, were not readily available, he noted.
McWhirter sat quietly in the prisoner’s box for the duration of the hearing and then waved at his supporters as he was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.
In addition to the prison term, McWhirter is banned from possessing firearms for life and must pay a victim fine surcharge. If he is unable to pay, he will be sentenced to one day in jail, to be served concurrently with his drug and weapons sentence, the court heard.
McWhirter’s girlfriend, Brittany Stinn, had also been facing charges in the case, but on Monday Crown confirmed they were halting prosecution by entering a stay of proceedings.
—with files from Cheryl Wierda
A Lake Country man once described by Mounties as a senior member of the Independent Soldiers was sentenced Friday to five and a half years in prison.
Donahugh McWhirter, 48, will serve four years in prison for drug charges and another year and a half for various weapons charges.
He was arrested with his girlfriend Brittany Stinn, in Kelowna Jan. 29, 2015 and pleaded guilty in January.
Crown counsel Perbeen Mann said she wasseeking a global sentence of eight years for possession of methamphetamine and MDMA for the purpose of trafficking, along with unlawful possession of a shotgun and rifle.
Mann told the court in sentencing submissions Monday that McWhirter was being watched by the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C. for the better part of a year when he was arrested with a significant cache of drugs that led to the discovery of firearms and a lot of Independent Solider swag.
On the month of his arrest, they’d watched McWhirter and Stinn go to an address in Maple Ridge belonging to a person believed to be have criminal ties for the fifth time in a short period.
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On a traffic violation, they stopped McWhirter and searched the vehicle.
In the trunk of his Audi, tucked in the back in a Walmart bag, was a bag of powder methamphetamine, a bag of powder MDMA, a bag of yellow pills that weren’t identified and a bag of MDMA pills.
The style and volume of drugs, said Mann, is typical for a mid-level drug dealer who provides product to street level dealers.
The MDMA had a bulk value of $68,000 and a street value of $138,000. The meth had a bulk value of $180,850 and a street value of $840,200.
Once they seized the drugs, Mounties went to McWhirter’s house to see what was there.
There they found a significant supply of Independent Solider paraphernalia, such as hats and hoodies. At the time of his arrest, Mounties said McWhirter was a senior member of the criminal organization that was in the throes of recruiting new members. He claims that he had long since left the organization.
Police also found a bag of firearms with no trigger lock, ammunition, shells, a crossbow and a sword.
There were 16 mobile phones and several score sheets around. Score sheets are how drug dealers keep their books. There were also vials of steroids and ziplock bags. Not all these items are on the indictment.
The pair have been out of custody and on bail since their arrest.
More to come…
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