A 65 year old man has escaped a custodial sentence due to a medical ailment, after he was found in illegal possession of one gun and 19 rounds of ammunition.
Khanroy Chewitt appeared at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court (KMC) before Senior Magistrate, Colin John on January, 8, where he changed his plea to guilty that on January 6, 2024, at Park Hill, he had in his possession one .25 pistol serial number unknown without a license issued under the Firearms Act; and for having in his possession 19 rounds of .25 ammunition without a license issued under the Firearms Act.
Acting on information received, at 5:10 a.m on January 6, 2024, a party of Narcotics and Rapid Response Unit (RRU) personnel, including PC 893 John, went to execute a search warrant at the home and premises of Khanroy Chewit of Park Hill/USA.
When the officers arrived at his home, they identified themselves and presented a search warrant to Chewitt and the party of police officers was invited into the home to conduct the search.
Chewitt led the officers to his bedroom upon request where PC John discovered one black and silver .25 Titan pistol along with a box containing 19 rounds of .25 ammunition inside of a brown Clarks shoe, which was packed away in a brown dressing table.
PC John proceeded to show the defendant what she had found. She questioned Chewitt and asked him if he was the holder of a firearms license; Chewitt replied, “no”.
PC John then pointed out the offences of possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition, and cautioned Chewitt in the presence of Sgt Huggins and PC Child.
The defendant replied, “Me nah know nothing ‘bout that. I ain’t live here”. PC John arrested Chewit under the suspicion of possession of unlicensed firearm and ammunition.
When Chewitt was taken to the criminal investigation department, he volunteered a statement and admitted that, “because it is my property and I was in the presence when the police search and find it, I have to take responsibility”.
Further investigations showed that the gun and ammunition are in good working condition, and Chewitt indeed is not the holder of a firearms license.
Lawyer, Grant Connell representing the defendant, informed the Senior Magistrate that Chewitt is a father of four and has had no previous convictions. Connell added that Chewitt cooperated with the police and gave a statement accepting responsibility for his action.
Connell further stated that despite one aggravating factor of the offence is the prevalence of gun crimes in the country, the mitigating factors outweigh the aggravating factors, and so the offence should be placed in Level Three according to the sentencing guidelines.
Connell also informed the court that Chewitt suffers from a “significant medical issue”, where sometimes, he is in “excruciating pain”.
“I humbly ask the court to impose a fine which the law says we can,” the lawyer said, adding that the maximum sentence for this offence is seven years in prison or a fine of $20, 000 or both.
He said further that Chewitt will not be a danger to the public because he resides elsewhere, and is scheduled to return home soon. Connell added that Chewitt is not a “hardened” offender, and rehabilitation is not an issue considering he has walked “the straight and narrow road for 64 years.”
As Connell presented a medical report written and signed by a medical professional on Chewitt’s ailment, he said that a custodial sentence would “be a catalyst in the process of this man’s demise”.
“We have a society problem, but we have to approach it by different angles, not by filling our jails,” Connell argued. “Every case must be dealt with according to the factual metrics.”
Prosecutor Samuel disagreed.
“A report was made to the police of something that transpired, and as a result, they went looking for a firearm,” she said.
“We must be mindful of the message we are sending as it relates to these offences,” Samuel added, as she drew reference to the prevalence of…[gun] crimes.
“There’s nowhere in the guidelines that if you’re old or sick, you can’t go to prison,” she remarked.
However Connell questioned, “A man that is close to death, you go send him jail?”
Senior Magistrate John said he has considered the law of the country, arguments by both counsels, as well as the sentencing guidelines, and had decided not to question the integrity of the health professional or their recommendation.
“We have to deal with each case on a case by case basis,” he noted.
Therefore, John imposed a fine of $15,000 for the illegal possession of a firearm, and $10,000 for the illegal possession of the ammunition. Both fines are to be paid by January 22, 2024, in default of which Chewitt will face two years of imprisonment.