A full-patch member of a Hells Angels chapter based in Langley will be allowed to appeal a ban on gun ownership, a judge in Chilliwack ruled recently.
In her ruling, Justice Francesca Marzari expressed doubt about the evidence given by a longtime retired RCMP officer that the Hells Angels is an organized crime group.
The case began when Gaston Methot attempted to renew a firearms permit he had held from 2012 to April, 2018, without incident.
The Firearms Officer issued a Notice of Refusal to Methot, citing Methot’s membership in the outlaw motorcycle gang.
Methot is a member of the West Point Chapter, a Lower Mainland-area group that, according to media reports, had a rented clubhouse in South Langley in recent years.
The refusal to give Methot a firearms permit relied on a report by a 28-year veteran of the RCMP, Cpl. Sergio Da Silva, who in 2018 was with the Organized Gang Unit of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU), which combats organized crime in B.C.
Da Silva advised the Firearms Officer about the characteristics of the Hells Angels, and the Firearms Officer refused the license, writing “I find you represent the Hells Angels and are bound by rules that allow for violence and criminal acts, and that the police are your adversary.”
He found that the outlaw motorcycle club has a reputation for violence and criminal acts, and forbids its members from cooperating with police.
Methot appealed and a reference hearing was held in Abbotsford Provincial Court. The judge there again found that it was reasonable to refuse the license because Methot “is a member of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, which is an organization that allows for violence and criminality, that restricts its members cooperation with police, and regards the police as adversaries.”
Public safety was at risk by giving Methot a gun license, the provincial court judge found.
But Marzari, in a January 22 ruling in Chilliwack Supreme Court, found that the judge had erred.
Part of Marzari’s ruling relied on changing standards of review in cases like this, based on a Supreme Court of Canada ruling. She also considered other recent court rulings that have limited the ability of police officers to offer the opinion that the Hells Angels are an organized crime group.
Da Silva’s report relied on “double or unattributed hearsay, use of the term ‘outlaw motorcycle gang,’ and aspects of his opinion that may be characterized as pure speculation,” Marzari wrote, agreeing with Methot’s lawyer.
“While some of this opinion evidence was factual and largely uncontested (for example, that Mr. Methot is a member of the Hells Angels) other aspects were highly contentious at the hearing and were based on hearsay and speculation that would ordinarily not be admissible, and which raise reliability issues,” Marzari added later in her ruling.
The hearing over Methot’s gun license was not a formal trial, and Marzari acknowledged that hearsay evidence is admissible in such a hearing.
But the judge should have considered the “weaknesses” of Da Silva’s evidence, Marzari wrote.
Marzari did not grant Methot his firearms license, but did rule that the Provincial Court has to reconsider the matter again, this time applying “the proper standard of review” to the decision and Da Silva’s expert evidence.
Police in B.C. have repeatedly characterized the Hells Angels as a violent organized crime group involved in the drug trade, and multiple Hells Angels members in B.C. have been murdered in recent years.
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