Teenager on gun and ammo charges changes plea to guilty
From the Courts, News
January 31, 2023

Teenager on gun and ammo charges changes plea to guilty

A Cane Garden/Barrouallie teenager who pleaded not guilty on illegal gun and ammunition charges changed his plea when he reappeared in court this week.
Eighteen year old Jermaine Andrews was therefore remanded for sentencing on February, 1.

Andrews found himself on the wrong side of the law when police officers who were conducting routine checks at the Grenadines Wharf, intercepted a vehicle he was driving and discovered a firearm and ammunition.

The teen made his first appearance in the Serious Offences Court on January 18, before chief magistrate, Rechanne Browne, when he appeared for arraignment.

Andrews is charged that on January 17, at the Grenadines Wharf he had in his possession one .9mm pistol, make and serial number unknown without a license issued under the Firearms Act. He is also charged that on the same date he had in his possession 24 rounds of .9mm ammunition without a license issued under the Firearms Act.

Andrews pleaded not guilty to the charges and was granted bail in the sum of $12,000 with one surety.

He reappeared in the court on Wednesday, January 25 where the charges were again read to him, and this time he pleaded guilty.

According to the facts presented by sergeant Atnel Ash, at about 11:30 a.m on January 17, PC 69 Ashton was part of a party of police officers on duty at the Grenadines Wharf.

While at gate no.7, PC 653 Ambris alerted Ashton of a Nissan Tida car, license plate, PE35, that was entering the gate.

The driver was signalled to stop and he complied. The vehicle was approached by Ashton and a search was requested. Andrews consented to the search and the officer found one black, green and red GUCCI bag containing one black pistol with a black magazine inserted in it under the front passenger seat. The defendant was immediately cautioned and he responded, “Officer everything in the bag is mine.”

Andrews was arrested on suspicion and taken to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID). While there, the magazine was removed from the pistol, and 24 rounds of ammunition were removed and counted in the presence of the defendant.

The firearm was examined by ballistic expert, station sergeant Cain and he found the firearm to be in good working condition. Also, the defendant’s name did not appear in the records as someone having a licensed firearm. Andrews admitted to the offence and was later charged.

During plea mitigation on Wednesday, Andrews’ lawyer, Grant Connell told the court that the defendant is an 18-year-old unemployed teen who lives with his parents. Connell described him as having good character, and said that he grew up in the church, but later strayed. He said that Andrews surrendered the firearm and did not object to a search on the vehicle. Connell further told the court that Andrews has a family unit that has come together and taken steps to address his behaviour.

“Every mitigating factor is in his favour. I have looked at the guidelines and I have ticked every section…”, the lawyer said.

Connell asked the court not to impose a custodial sentence, but instead to fine the defendant. He also looked at the criteria of the sentencing guidelines and highlighted that a suspended sentence for a gun offence can be imposed. After presenting his argument for a suspended sentence Connell said, “so suspended sentencing, I humbly submit can apply to possession of a firearm, and that is the wisdom of the authors for people like him[defendant] because we cannot have young offenders coming before the court and filling our jails with them. The system will be creating criminals.”

The lawyer added that a pastor turned up in court on behalf of the defendant and he said that the church has worked for many people and it continues to do.

He further said that the court cannot fix St. Vincent and the Grenadines and he drew reference to a statement that was made by an Archbishop in Trinidad.

“ As the Archbishop in Trinidad said, Trinidad is in a dark place.Trinidad has 1.5 million with 600 plus murders last year. We are 110,000 with 40 plus; do the maths, do the ratio, I don’t know who in a dark place or who in a darker place, but we need to fix St. Vincent and fixing St. Vincent does not start by filling our jails,” Connell said.

Station sergeant, Renrick Cato told the court during his submissions that he was served with a social inquiry report. Cato said, “I am also of the opinion that when you come to the court and seek mercy, you must seek mercy with honesty…and your honour, I looked at what was said to the counsellor and it is contrary to what was said to the police by the defendant.”

The prosecutor told the court that the offence occurred on January, 17 and the defendant indicated that he received the gun from a particular person who is now deceased. Cato pointed out to the court that the defendant had the weapon for more than 17 days. He also said that the defendant told the counsellor that he was going to take the gun to the police. However, Cato said, “ I am submitting that the defendant had no intention of taking the gun to the police.’’

“Why would an 18 year old boy be driving around with not only a gun, but a gun with an extended magazine, and at the time containing 24 rounds of ammunition?” the prosecutor asked.

He further said that Connell had mentioned that a pastor spoke in court on behalf of the defendant and he said “It is striking to me that it is only when young people find themselves in these situations, they remember there is somebody name a pastor, a deacon or there is a church…”.

Cato said based on the prevalence of firearms, firearm offences, as well as the serious nature and the length of time the defendant had the firearm in his possession “I’m asking the court that the sentence that is imposed- a strong message must be sent to persons who are in possession of an illegal firearm or who have intention of obtaining an illegal firearm.”

He added, “today is January 25, and I am sure that more than 10 new firearm matters came to this court and the month is not finish yet.”

The Chief Magistrate said that for the year there have been gun related matters before the court every week. She said that on January, 24 she imposed a non-custodial sentence on another 18 year old offender for a gun-related charge.

Browne said, however, every case has its own merit.

“…so if you may think there is an 18 year old and the same sentence will apply…it should not be taken like that.”

The chief magistrate further said that she is aware that imprisonment is not the only solution, and sometimes it is not the best solution. However, she said that the person before the court has to be considered.

“We have not only a gun, we have 24 rounds of ammunition, a gun found on the wharf not voluntarily surrender in my estimation with an extended magazine, not even police officers on a daily basis carry extended magazine, and the court must tap the young man and say sorry don’t do that again?” the chief magistrate asked.

Browne said that the sentence that will be handed down must be such that it is a lesson for the defendant and others not to think that it is okay to get involved in such offences.

She remanded the defendant into custody until February 1, when he will be sentenced.