Former army man, turned Layou resident and retiree, 83-year-old Hermus Patrick has, for now, escaped jail for illegal possession of a revolver and 115 bullets.
Counsel on both sides of the courtroom, prosecution and defence, had previously expressed the opinion that jail time was not the answer in Patrick’s case, but the possibility still loomed over the defendant’s head until last Friday.
A suspended sentence of 12 months imprisonment was handed down by Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett for Patrick’s possession of the revolver, and a $12,000 fine for the illegal holding of ammunition.
Coming out of the doors of the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court a free man last Friday, Patrick looked relaxed while drinking some juice.
For his day of reckoning, the retired veteran, who had previously pleaded guilty to six counts of illegal ammunition possession, as well as possession of a .38 revolver, was wearing a brown suit completely matched.
Burnett began by reviewing the facts of the case. He noted that on June 5, the police executed a search warrant for arms and ammunition at Patrick’s home, and they found the illegal items.
The ammunition that was in the home of the defendant were not all the same type, there were .25 and .38 bullets.
The maximum penalty possible for the offences to which Patrick admitted is a fine of $20,000, and a custodial sentence not exceeding seven years, Burnett noted.
He then reviewed defence lawyer Grant Connell’s mitigation. Connell had noted that his client was born in 1935, had no previous convictions and pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity.
“He indicated that the defendant served in the army in the 60s. Counsel submitted that he shipped home his property in a barrel, the arms and ammunition came into his possession,” Burnett revised.
Patrick had applied for a license after his retirement; this was denied.
Connell apparently assured that the weapon and projectiles were kept in the bosom of the Layou home, and never “brandished in open space.”
Connell submitted that his client was not a hardened criminal, and that prison was not deserved, and further that Patrick had medical issues because of which he had to go to the United States (US) every six months.
The defence pleaded that if a prison sentence be imposed, that it be suspended, or if a fine is given they asked for time to pay it, considering Patrick is not a man of “great means.”
Senior Prosecutor Adolphus Delplesche had commented that while a custodial sentence is normally given in firearm cases, each case is decided on its own facts and circumstances.
“He offered an opinion by saying that he’s not looking for a custodial sentence,” Burnett recalled.
In sentencing, the magistrate included among the aggravating factors the prevalence of such crimes in St Vincent and the Grenadines, and the defendant’s age. “The defendant had experience in law enforcement and he ought to have known the consequences of what he was doing,” Burnett admonished.
However, Patrick’s age was also a saving grace, “Eighty-three years, no previous conviction,” alongside his early guilty plea, remorse, medical condition, and cooperation with the police. The fact that the gun and bullets were never brandished in open space was never challenged by the prosecution, and so this was also accepted as a mitigating feature.
“The fact that the defendant applied for a license may suggest that he showed a willingness to be a law abiding citizen,” Burnett commented.
The magistrate said that he concluded that the mitigating features outweighed the aggravating ones.
Considering everything, the magistrate also concluded that a suspended sentence was appropriate.
He imposed a sentence of 12 months imprisonment suspended for 12 months for the gun possession. A figure for a fine in relation to the ammunition was calculated by using the formula of $500 per bullet, and then reductions made to the final figure because of the guilty plea.
Therefore, $12,000 should be paid by December 31, 2019 or there will be a default of 12 months in prison.