Paula Llewellyn, the nation’s chief prosecutor, has declared that the prison sentence handed to businessman Patrick Powell should serve as warning to other license firearm holders.
Powell was given a nine-month prison sentence, at hard labour, by Parish Judge Vaughn Smith yesterday following his conviction last month for failing to hand over his licensed Glock pistol and ammunition to police investigators. The offence is a breach of the Firearm Act.
The weapon was requested in July 2011 amid a police investigation into the shooting death of Kingston College student Khajeel Mais. Powell was charged will killing Mais, but was freed after the prosecution collapsed.
There is an estimated 40,000 licensed firearm holders nationwide and Llewellyn, who was speaking after the sentence was imposed, said they must understand that they will be held accountable.
“When you have been given that privilege to hold a firearm license, it has certain responsibilities and you are accountable,” Llewellyn, the director of public prosecutions, declared yesterday.
“What this particular conviction did was to send a message to firearm holders and prospective firearm holders that part and parcel of the condition of being given a firearm license is that when the police authority, so duly authorised, ask you to hand over your firearm, you must produce it,” she told The Gleaner.
FIND NOT SUFFICIENT
Before announcing the sentence, Smith indicated that the court has to be mindful that the punishment “sends a message, not only to Mr Powell, but to other license firearm holders.”
He noted, too, that the firearm has still not been handed over to authorities. “As far as this court is concerned, this firearm is still out there,” he insisted.
The judge also asserted that, “The court is not of the view that a fine would be a sufficient deterrent to other license firearm holders not to do what Mr Powell has done.”
Top criminal defence attorney Peter Champagnie, as well as a retired Appeal Court judge both voiced support for the penalty imposed by Smith, amid concerns that it was excessive.
Champagnie noted that before his conviction, Powell had an unblemished record, but said the fact that the firearm is still outstanding worked against the St Andrew businessman.
“In a society where the preferred choice of killing seems to be with the use of a firearm, that is a major, major, major disadvantage for the offender,” Champagnie argued.
The retired judge, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Smith obviously did not believe Powell’s account of what happened to the firearm “and I would not have believed it either.”
Powell was immediately taken into custody.
His attorney, Deborah Martin, revealed yesterday that she has advised him of the range of options available to him, including an appeal of his conviction and sentence, which must be filed within 14 days.