Weapons charges against gunman’s spouse, others withdrawn in case linked to N.S. mass shooting

Three people who supplied ammunition to the gunman who killed 22 Nova Scotians two years ago have had their criminal charges dismissed.

Lawyers for all three — Lisa Banfield, James Banfield and Brian Brewster — appeared in Nova Scotia provincial courts Tuesday morning to complete the process.

All three had been charged with weapons offences, and all three opted to have their charges dealt with through restorative justice, meaning they didn’t face a trial and have no criminal record.

Lisa Banfield was the long-time partner of the gunman. James Banfield is her brother. Brian Brewster is her brother-in-law.

Lisa Banfield asked the two men to use their firearms certificates to purchase bullets. The gunman was not legally allowed to possess weapons or bullets.

James Lockyer is a lawyer for Lisa Banfield, the partner of the mass shooter who killed 22 people in April 2020 across Nova Scotia. (CBC)

Police said when the trio was charged that none of them knew what the ammunition was to be used for.

“It’s a big relief that they’re over, for her,” Lisa Banfield’s lawyer, James Lockyer, said outside court Tuesday. “For me, too.”

But Lockyer said he still has misgivings.

“I will go as far to say I was always disturbed by the fact the RCMP charged Lisa,” Lockyer said.

Tom Singleton, who represented Brian Brewster, also has questions about the charges.

“I have serious misgivings about the fact the charges were laid in the first place and what type of investigation was carried on by the RCMP that actually justified laying the charge,” Singleton said following court.

While Singleton said Brewster realizes that by going the restorative justice route he’s unlikely to get the answers he wants, avoiding the stress of a trial was worth it to his client.

During the restorative justice process, Singleton said that Brewster and his wife had what he described as some rather informal meetings with counsellors from the restorative justice program.

James Banfield and his lawyer initially had misgivings about the process because they worried representatives of 21 of the families would get directly involved and it would become unwieldy. That didn’t happen.

Neither Brewster nor James Banfield appeared in court in person Tuesday. Lisa Banfield was flanked by her two sisters, just as she was when she testified before the inquiry last week.

The inquiry has heard that the people in the United States who played a role in helping the gunman, Gabriel Wortman, obtain three guns from Maine have not been charged, and investigations into the firearm issue on that side of the border have closed.

Questions at commission about charges

Under cross-examination by Lockyer at the Mass Casualty Commission later Tuesday, RCMP Chief Supt. Darren Campbell testified that he supported the decision to charge Lisa Banfield, though he said he was not involved in the conversations with Crown prosecutors.

Campbell said there were two key issues he considered with other officers: the public interest in laying the charges and how the charges would be perceived.

He said the optics of charging Lisa Banfield were discussed at a meeting just before the charges were announced on Dec. 4, 2020.

“For example, in terms of domestic violence victims, victim-blaming, I thought that would be a significant issue that would need to be addressed,” he said.

“In terms of the victim families and what their expectations were or weren’t, how sympathetic they might be or non-sympathetic to Lisa Banfield, that was an area of concern for me.”

RCMP Supt. Darren Campbell was the support services officer at the time of the shootings. (CBC)

Another factor Campbell considered, he said, was advancing the ongoing investigation into the provision of firearms used in the offences.

“Personally, I was weighing out optically how that would look. It’s one thing to have a gun. It’s one thing to have bullets. It’s another thing to have guns and and bullets together, because then they can become lethal,” he said.

Lockyer asked Campbell, “Did the optics include that it might be perceived as an attempt to divert attention from the responsibility of the RCMP for what had happened on the night of the murders?”

Campbell replied, “No. That actually never crossed my mind, personally.”

Lockyer also questioned whether Campbell was privy to the RCMP’s strategy of avoiding giving Lisa Banfield, James Banfield and Brian Brewster their “10B rights” before they were questioned about the transfer of ammunition. 10B rights are the right to retain counsel and prevent self-incrimination.

Campbell said he did not know what cautions or rights were provided to them.

Banfield re-enacted what she saw and experienced the night of the mass casualties for police investigators in October 2020, just weeks before she was charged.