A magistrate has partly blamed Tasmania's "state of confusion" as the reason a North-West man was guilty of three counts of possessing a prohibited firearm.
Magistrate Tamara Jago on Wednesday found Trent Ian Johnston guilty of the charges, which were laid in June 2020 and arose from him ordering three gel blasters online and using them in a Coastal shed for target practice.
Before proceeding to sentence, Ms Jago sought clarity from Crown prosecutor Alicia Chisholm about what she called the "state of confusion" on the legality of the weapons.
The court heard he had purchased them online from Queensland, where they are legal, and had at the time endeavoured to determine their legality in Tasmania but, Ms Jago said, those inquiries "did not bear fruit".
Ms Chisholm said that Tasmania Police published a statement in November 2020 which did clarify their position, but Ms Jago pointed out that this occurred five months after Johnston was charged.
Ms Chisholm said the lack of clarity was an issue for parliament, and Ms Jago said the legislation needed to be amended to provide surety of the state's position.
"When he committed the offences there was really quite a vacuum in terms of information about whether gel blasters were legal in Tasmania," Ms Jago said.
Defence lawyer Julia Ker said this was "significantly mitigating" for her client's criminal culpability, and said "there is no suggestion Mr Johnston had any sinister intent".
In sentencing, Ms Jago clarified that Johnston's ignorance of the law at the time he committed the crimes was not a defence of his guilt, but was nevertheless relevant.
"You were cooperative with police. At no time did you attempt to hide [the weapons] from police. There is no evidence whatsoever you misused these gel blasters," Ms Jago said.
"Normally a person who had been found guilty of three counts of possessing a prohibited firearm would be met with a severe penalty.
"The circumstances here are unusual, and require considerably more leniency."
However, Ms Jago said, now that clarity on the legality of the weapons had been provided he would not be entitled to lower penalties in the future.
"If you're foolish enough to do this again you will not be met with the same level of leniency," she said.
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