KAMLOOPS — When undercover conservation officers approached a Savona butcher to inquire about a man selling wild game meat, he told them to buy from him instead, making himself a new target for investigation along with their original suspect.
Stuart Malcom Stephenson, 53, pleaded guilty to trafficking wildlife under the Wildlife Act and received a $4,000 fine today, Oct. 22, in Kamloops Provincial Court.
Crown prosecutor Evan Goulet said investigating conservation officers were initially looking for a man rumoured to be selling wild elk and moose meat in the Savona area. However, the undercovers began looking further into Stephenson after he told them not to do business with the suspect and buy from him at the Savona Custom Meat store instead.
“Stephenson wasn’t too fond of this other person and let them know that they shouldn’t do business with them and said he could supply them with some meat,” Goulet said, adding Stephenson offered to give the officers deer meat if they paid for cutting and wrapping.
Goulet said in April 2014, the officers bought two bags of elk and moose meat. Stephenson gave the officers his card and they continued contact. The officers went back shortly afterward and purchased nearly $200 worth of meat, then returned to Savona Custom Meats again in September to buy more for $100.
Goulet said conservation officers approached Stephenson and interviewed him. The butcher told the officers that he thought perhaps if he charged them with cutting and wrapping the meat instead of the meat itself that they could side-step the prohibition.
“He did recognize and admit responsibility and say he was guilty,” Goulet said.
Stephenson’s lawyer, John Hogg, said the officers’ behaviour bordered on entrapment as his client initially wanted to give them tailings to try the meat and only wanted to charge them for cutting and packaging.
“This was a long drawn out affair. This gentleman continued to say he couldn’t sell them wild meat but that he’d give him some tailings to taste,” Hogg said. He noted officers told Stephenson their friend from France was interested in wild game because she’d never tasted it before.
“It went on and on like that. They got meat on three occasions,” Hogg said. “Each time his grip on ‘I can’t sell’ became a little less secure."
Hogg added Stephenson also offered to give the officers meat if they purchased one of the hanging baskets in his shop.
"I’m just wanting you to know the way the scenario went and there was some enticement early on,” Hogg told provincial court judge Stella Frame.
The fine for selling wild meat is $2,500. Stephenson made three sales in total, but both lawyers agreed a $4,000 fine would be sufficient given Stephenson’s lack of criminal record and his guilty plea.
Frame gave him six months to pay.
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