From the Courts
October 21, 2016
Layou farmer jailed for 5 years on gun, ammo possession

With the recent rise in gun related crimes, the Serious Offences Court has been handing down stiff penalties to individuals found guilty of firearm offences.{{more}}

A recent example of this is the five-year prison sentence handed down to Layou resident Barry Antoine, after he was found guilty of having one Browning 9 mm semiautomatic pistol, serial number unknown, along with two rounds of 9 mm ammunition without a licence issued under the Firearms Act.

In an earlier sitting of the court, Antoine pleaded not guilty to the charges and denied that he had a firearm.

In his evidence, Antoine said on June 16, when he saw police officers, he ran and threw a black bag containing three marijuana cigarettes over a wall as the officers chased him. Antoine said the officers retrieved a firearm, but it could not have been his because he could not have thrown the firearm with his left hand because of an injury.

However, members of Rapid Response Unit (RRU) who gave evidence at the trial testified that they saw Antoine throw the gun over the wall while running from them.

During mitigation on Wednesday, Antoine’s lawyer Grant Connell said that his client has walked the straight and narrow for the last 14 years.

Connell argued that the gun was never brandished in public and no one in the court could say where the gun came from.

Further, the lawyer suggested that if his client was given a custodial sentence, the fact that he has one hand could cause unnecessary discomfort and he would not be able to defend himself behind bars.

Connell argued that there were no aggravating factors and asked that the court show a level of leniency.

“We are certain that he would not be a threat to society and sending him to jail is not mandatory,” he added.

However, senior prosecutor Adolphus Delpesche disagreed with Connell.

“The possession of a firearm is aggravating in itself,” he said.

Delpesche further stated that firearm crimes have become rampant and the court is responsible for sending messages to lawbreakers. He pointed out that up to Wednesday morning, someone succumbed to a firearm injury and stressed that the situation is intolerable.

The prosecutor then recommended a custodial sentence.

In sentencing, Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne-Matthias said that firearm offences are very serious and this seriousness is expressed by Parliament who increased the maximum penalty to seven years imprisonment.

She said she reviewed the evidence carefully and noted that although a medical form was presented that confirmed Antoine’s left arm was disabled, the doctor did not turn up to give evidence and was not questioned.

The Chief Magistrate further stated that she could not discount that he was found guilty after a full trial and although Antoine’s last offence was in 2002, the offence was, in fact, a serious one.

Browne-Matthias said that the sentence should reflect deterrence, and so, the Layou farmer was sentenced to five years in prison for the firearm and six months for the ammunition charge.

The sentences will run concurrently. (AS)