‘Fast friends’ meet opposing  fortunes in shotgun ammo case
From the Courts
July 3, 2018
‘Fast friends’ meet opposing fortunes in shotgun ammo case

It is said that you should choose your friends wisely, a lesson one Rosebank resident learnt the hard way after narrowly dodging a four-year prison sentence for illegal ammo recently.

Franklin Edwards, of Rose Bank, furrowed his brows in worry as Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne-Matthias read his fate, along with the fate of his co-accused Conroy Edwards, of Sandy Bay on June 12.

The two defendants had, according to both of them, just become fast friends, days before being arrested and jointly charged for possession of 25 rounds of 12-gauge ammunition last September 19.

Months on, it is safe to say that the two are no longer friends, and after a full trial, the verdict was out.

Browne-Matthias read over the evidence as presented in court by the police witnesses and the defendants.

The police had apparently carried out a joint operation at the Coreas’ Parking Lot on September 19, where two cars had come under their surveillance, and after some observation, an arrest was made of the two defendants.

The police indicated that they had seen one car park behind the another, seen Conroy exit his vehicle, and enter Franklin’s car, which had been there first. Conroy was then seen carrying a black plastic bag containing something unknown when he got into Franklin’s car, but nothing was in his hands when he left.

However, before the defendant Conroy left the vehicle, the undercover officer, who was 18 feet away, also observed Franklin exiting the vehicle and appearing to talk to himself angrily.

The two were captured soon after, and a search revealed a black bag, containing a brown box of shotgun bullets under the driver’s seat of Franklin’s car.

“Nah me. It belong to that man dey,” Franklin had offered to the police, while Conroy had returned, “Officer me nah know nothing bout dat.”

The Chief Magistrate then moving on to Franklin’s evidence, noted that much of it ‘mirrored’ the prosecution’s evidence.

Additionally, Franklin had added how he and Conroy had become friends, saying that Conroy had called him by his nickname at the parking lot a few days prior. They spoke, exchanged numbers, and messaged from time to time.

Browne-Matthias reviewed, “Under cross examination the defendant Franklin Edwards stated that his friendliness as a person caused him to come into contact with Conroy Edwards and take his number, but at no time was there any arrangement to get bullets from him, and it was on seeing defendant Conroy Edwards with the bag containing bullets that he panicked, got so scared, that he walked away from his car with the defendant and the ammunition still inside.”

The Rosebank resident said he had asked Conroy to get out of the vehicle but remained inside, so he then left his own vehicle out of frustration.

On the other side of things, Conroy had little in his testimony similar to the other witnesses, and sought to claim complete ignorance of the bullets.

The only similarity in evidence was that Conroy admitted he had struck up a conversation with Franklin.

Apart from this, everything was different. The bag turned into a cellphone, Conroy said he arrived before Franklin did, and that he left before Franklin, after a peaceful conversation. Conroy said that he did not know why everyone else was lying.

When all was said and done, the Sandy Bay resident fell into the pit of guilt, while everything was rosy for the Rosebank resident who was acquitted. The Chief Magistrate found that he could not be said to have been in possession based on the analysis of the evidence.

The uncertain Franklin, who had been shaking his head intermittently during the decision, had to be told to step down, and that he was free to go. The grateful defendant made the sign of the cross as he exited the courtroom.

Lawyer for Conroy, Israel Bruce, tried to soften the would be sentence with his mitigation.

“There is no evidence given in this honourable court that a weapon was involved and/or engaged,” he noted. He claimed, “over the last three months or so, that we’ve seen a rapid decline in offences of the type.”

Conroy’s criminal record showed that he had two similar previous offences, but that they were in 2002.

“Sixteen. Years. That clearly is an indication of someone that has recognized that the life that he was living was not the life that he wanted to live, and has spent the last 16 years refashioning his life,” the lawyer insisted.

The 41-year-old father of six, would miss his child’s birthday, the lawyer said, and that he supported his children financially.

At this point there was a comment from the bar table that the defendant was not breastfeeding the baby, to which the lawyer said he could not ignore, and responded, “The point is – when you have an unemployed mother who is breastfeeding and doesn’t have anything to substantiate the breast milk; that becomes a more important issue for the child.”

He asked for a fine or short prison term for Conroy.

Senior Prosecutor Adolphus Delplesche did not agree. “My friend alluded to the fact that we have seen a rapid decline in firearm offences, I beg to differ…There may have been a decline in capital offences where firearms are used but the offences of firearm and ammunition…this court has seen them coming.”

Speaking about the type of bullet, the prosecutor explained, “When I was a little boy growing up, they used to call them ‘scattershock’. “When you fire one, it mushrooms…in each of those cartridges is about 100 pellets. So each of them has about 100 pellets, and you have 25 of those…how much hundred da be?…and one pellet can take a life,” he continued.

As for the 16-year gap in offences, Delplesche asked if the old adage “A leopard can’t change its skin” couldn’t be applied.

After referring to many court of appeal cases, the Chief Magistrate sentenced Conroy to jail for four years.