Former policeman Ettian Charles has been sentenced to spend three years in prison for possession of an illegal loaded firearm.
Additionally, for six rounds of illegal ammunition that was also found to be in his possession, Charles was sentenced to spend six months in prison, to run concurrently with the sentence of three years for the firearm.
A full trial was held in this matter, during which Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Karim Nelson represented the crown while lawyer Israel Bruce represented the defendant.
The evidence of the prosecution is that on September 17, 2018, the police went to Charles’s home in search of persons who were linked to their investigation of another crime. However when they arrived those who were present at the house ran, leaving Charles. The officers took Charles to the central police station. Charles, who was a suspended police officer at the time, spoke to a certain police officer and told him he would take him to a firearm at his home. The party returned to Charles’s home. He took them to his room, pointing to particular area. They retrieved an article of clothing and the Smith and Wesson .38 revolver fell out.
Charles denied knowledge of the firearm. He claimed he was beaten by the police, including the Commissioner, at the central police station, and that he was beaten at his home. Charles submitted that he saw the police with a firearm but did not know how they got it.
Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett sentenced him at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court(KMC) on July 25.
He began by reiterating that the cardinal principles of sentencing: retribution, deterrence, prevention and rehabilitation were uppermost in his mind
To calculate the sentence, the magistrate used the sentencing guidelines for firearm offences as provided by the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court(ECSC).
“The starting point sentence was established based on the seriousness of the offence, including Mr Charles’s culpability in the commission of the offence and the consequences of the offence as referenced by the harm caused in the commission of the offence,” he stated.
Applying the grid, the magistrate placed the offence in category three, level D, and therefore began at 35 per cent of the maximum sentence.
Moving on to consider the mitigating and aggravating features of the crime itself, he noted that there were no mitigating factors.
On the other hand the aggravating factors include that the gun was illegally obtained, and that the ammunition was found inside of the firearm.
There was also no indication that Charles had the firearm in his possession for any lawful purpose contemplated by the Firearms Act.
Consequently, the court added six months to the offence to reflect that the aggravating factors outweighed the mitigating.
When it came to the aggravating and mitigating features of the offender himself, the court noted Charles’s status as a police officer.
“That must count for something. This is a trained mind, surely he might have worked in different units of the police force. He must have been aware of the firearm problem in St Vincent and the Grenadines and for a police or an ex-police to be so involved is most disturbing,” the magistrate commented.
Burnett noted that counsel Bruce had mitigated for Charles, during which he spoke on “the health condition of the defendant’s family and the welfare of his children.”
“I wish the very best for Mr Charles’s family but the submission that was made by counsel could be made by every defendant who appears in this court. Against that background no or little weight was given to that,” the judicial officer said.
The court moved upwards by five months.
After calculations were completed the three year sentence for the firearm was handed down. As the charges arise from the same incident, the six month sentence for possession of the ammunition will run at the same time as the three-year sentence.
Charles is contending that he spent time on remand for this offence but as there were multiple charges laid against him at the time he was charged for this offence, the remand time needs to be properly assessed.
Therefore, he will return to court today, July 29, when the prosecution will give an indication on this.