Deterring criminals from using handguns in violent crimes in Ballarat has prompted a magistrate to jail a man for possessing handmade gun parts.
Black Hill man Stuart Nicholas Grano, 40, who was caught with handmade firearm parts in his home, was sentenced to 10 months jail at the Ballarat Magistrates' Court on Tuesday.
Grano pleaded guilty to possession of firearm parts, possession of ammunition and breach of a community corrections order.
Police prosecutor Senior Constable Helen Farmer told the court of the danger of homemade weapons in Ballarat following armed crime squad search of Grano's home in June 2018.
Handmade guns have been used to commit serious offences in Ballarat from armed robberies to non-fatal shootings.Senior Constable Helen Farmer
She said police located a 22 calibre round on the bed, other ammunition in the bedroom, tubes of metal formed into gun barrels and metal pieces believed to be used in the manufacture of handguns.
The police search was part of an armed crime squad operation during 2018 focusing on the manufacture of handmade guns.
"Handmade guns have been used to commit serious offences in Ballarat from armed robberies to non-fatal shootings," Senior Constable Farmer said.
"Fifteen handmade handguns were located between May 2017 and May 2018 in Ballarat."
Magistrate Gregory Robinson said any illegal gun manufacturing or possession was ultimately about hurting people and the law had appropriate penalties.
"Jail is punishment but also an effective deterrent for anyone who seeks to acquire firearms," he said.
"The source of firearms parts came from the same maker who provided other people in Ballarat with firearms who then went on to commit offences."
Senior Constable Farmer told the court a police ballistics expert analysed the steel and metal found in Grano's house and noted it was consistent with the barrels and blocks in seized firearms that had been used in crimes.
Defence barrister Simon Kelly said Grano pleaded guilty on the basis of the parts found, not that he was the manufacturer of those firearms, and said the parts came into his possession in the context of mental ill-health, drug use and 'poor associates'.
Mr Kelly told the court the various firearm parts found could not amount to being a complete firearm.
"You can not ask yourself what he was going to do with those parts because there is no evidence to suggest anything would have been done," he said.
Mr Kelly referred to Grano's mental health conditions, long term drug addiction, opportunity for employment and support of parents in his submissions to the court in his arguments for a community corrections order to be imposed.
Senior Constable Farmer said a term of imprisonment was an appropriate sentence as the maximum penalty for possession of firearm parts was 10 years jail.
"This is not the first time the accused has been subject to a weapons related charge. On September 9 2017 he was convicted of possessing a handmade knife in a public place," she said.
"There is a need to protect the community... I refer again to the 15 homemade handguns ceased in the Ballarat area.
"A strong and clear message needs to be sent that this offending will not be tolerated."
In his sentencing remarks, Mr Robinson told the court it was difficult to ascribe any weight either way to Grano's motivation for possessing the firearm parts without knowing the purpose for holding the parts.
"The fact is the parliament has given a possible sentence on this offence of 10 years," he said.
"It is clear I am to have regard of this maximum penalty in deciding what I should impose. The possession of parts of a firearm in the most severe cases is treated equivalently of actually having a firearm in possession."
Mr Robinson said he also gave consideration to Grano's long history of drug addition, relevant prior history of weapons charges and violence, the support of parents, opportunity for employment and early guilty plea in sentencing.
"Clearly there is a great public safety interest in potentially having criminals access firearms to... ultimately hurt people. This is no doubt why parliament has imposed the 10 year maximum imprisonment on this charge," Mr Robinson said.
Grano was sentenced to nine months prison followed by a 12 month community corrections order on the charge of possessing firearm parts, a $1000 fine for possessing ammunition and one month prison served cumulatively for breaching a community corrections order.
"Had it not been for the plea of guilty there would have been an 18 month term of imprisonment imposed," Mr Robinson said.
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