3rd person accused of supplying ammo to N.S. gunman sent to restorative justice

·3 min read
The burned-out remains of the gunman's cottage on Portapique Beach Road in Portapique, N.S., are shown May 13, 2020.  (Steve Lawrence/CBC - image credit)
The burned-out remains of the gunman's cottage on Portapique Beach Road in Portapique, N.S., are shown May 13, 2020. (Steve Lawrence/CBC - image credit)

A man accused of supplying ammunition to the gunman who murdered 22 Nova Scotians in April 2020 has withdrawn his guilty plea. The single charge against James Banfield will now be dealt with through the restorative justice process.

James Banfield's sister Lisa Banfield and their brother-in-law Brian Brewster were also charged with supplying ammunition to the gunman. Police said at the time the charges were laid that none of the three knew what the ammunition was to be used for.

Brewster and Lisa Banfield have already opted for restorative justice. But James Banfield's lawyer, Michelle James, had initially advised her client the process would be too unwieldy.

"There's been a significant shift, I can't explain why, there's not really been any reason given to me as to why that has changed, but it's clear that it has," James said Wednesday.

"So the process now looks like something that I was of the view was going to be a tenable process and something that I would have advised my client to participate in. Had we got that information last year, we'd be done by now."

The restorative justice program typically brings offenders, victims and communities together to resolve issues without incarceration. It requires offenders to take responsibility for their actions.


James appeared in Nova Scotia provincial court in Halifax Wednesday to withdraw her client's guilty plea. Banfield, 65, did not attend court.

Crown prosecutor Mark Heerema supported the switch.

"I can indicate that Mr. Banfield throughout the course of this file has conveyed to the Crown his acceptance of responsibility, he co-operated with authorities throughout, so in many ways this was not a surprise," Heerema said.

James said the shift is in who will participate in the process. She said she was initially led to believe that representatives of all or most of the 22 victims' families would take part. She said she now believes there will be some community representation, which makes the process more manageable.

"It looks like it's going to be beneficial, I think, for everybody, and it's the resolution I was looking for a year ago, so it just took us a while to get there," James said.

Jonathan Villeneuve/Radio-Canada
Jonathan Villeneuve/Radio-Canada

James said the commission investigating the murderer's rampage has recently asked Banfield if he would participate in their inquiry. She said she advised against it while he was facing the criminal charge.

She said she doesn't know how he will respond to the request now that he's taking part in restorative justice. As part of that process, participants must accept responsibility for what they're accused of and look at how their actions have impacted their community.

If Banfield successfully completes that process, the charge will be withdrawn and he will have no criminal record. The same applies to his two co-accused. All three are scheduled to return to court in July to provide an update on their progress.


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