New Montrose resident, 18-year-old Joel Williams, pleaded guilty when he appeared in the Serious Offences Court on January 9, after he was charged that on October 3, 2022 at New Montrose he had in his possession one Glock .27 semi-automatic pistol, and five rounds of ammunition without a license issued under the Firearms Act.
Williams reappeared in court for sentencing on January, 24, after chief magistrate, Rechanne Browne, had indicated that the court is minded not to impose a custodial sentence so that the offender can redeem himself.
A social inquiry report was also requested which concluded that the defendant “is a good prospect for reform.”
At his sentencing on Tuesday, January 24, the chief magistrate said that from inception, after Williams had pleaded guilty, the court indicated that it will be leaning towards a non-custodial sentence.
She said that the court came to the decision based on the direction of a statement given by Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, Dame Janice Pereira during her address at the opening of the 2023 law year.
Pereira said “A regime of punishment is not always the answer, but the restoration of young lives.”
The chief magistrate said that she has to tailor her sentencing to allow young offenders to make contributions that are meaningful to society, as well as having a rehabilitative outcome for the offender.
However she said that, “each case will be considered on its facts and circumstances because not all young persons who may come in this box will escape a custodial sentence.”
“And that is not to set a precedent; it is just having heard the circumstances,” she added.
The chief magistrate noted that even though the court was not leaning towards a custodial sentence, the sentencing guidelines still had to be considered.
She concluded that the consequences of the offences were high, and placed them in category two, while the seriousness was placed at the highest level.
Browne added that the starting point of the sentence was at 60%, and if the court had leaned towards a custodial sentence, the sentence would have started at over 3.5 years. However, she said that the court can impose a $20,000 fine.
When she examined the aggravating features of the offence, Browne made mention of the prevalence of gun related offences.
“For the year I think there has been a gun related offence in this court every day. I think I am operating a gun court for the year…”, the chief magistrate said.
She also highlighted that the firearm was carried openly in a public place, the time of the night and the area in which the offence took place were also aggravating.
“There was a shooting incident not too far away in the same vicinity, on the same day, and this area is plagued with gun related activity,” the chief magistrate said.
Mitigating of the offence, the court felt that the offence could have been influenced by coercion, or intimidation.
Browne said that the defendant was caught with an older person who she described as a more “seasoned” individual.
When she weighed the aggravating and the mitigating factors, the aggravating factors outweighed the mitigating, and the court started at a fine of $13,000, and $6000 was added, bringing the fine to $19,000.
There were no aggravating factors of the offender; and mitigating for him is that he is a youth and showed genuine remorse.
As a result, $4000 was deducted from the fine.
Williams also pleaded guilty, and this led to a 1.3 discount resulting in a fine of $10,000 for the firearm offence. Williams is required to pay this fine by February, 10, or he will spend 11 months in prison if he fails to pay.
For the possession of ammunition, he was ordered to pay $1,500 by January, 25, or he will spend two months in prison if he fails to do so.
Browne also ordered that Williams attends weekly youth meetings at the New Birth Christian Soldiers Church. He is also to be enrolled in a nine-month plumbing course, where he will be supervised by Uzzah Pope.
The court is also to be presented with reports every three months, and the defendant must “more than satisfactorily” complete the plumbing course.
Williams will be reassessed on October 9, 2023.
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