Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett, today (Monday), jailed former national footballer Myron Samuel for 18 months for possession of an unlicensed firearm.
Samuel, a 28-year-old shopkeeper, of Layou, was further ordered to pay a fine of EC$3,500 by Dec. 31 for possession of 15 rounds of .40 ammunition without a license, or spend a further nine months in jail.
“This defendant has to be deterred from committing other offences of a similar nature and the sentence must demonstrate this, while other young men in SVG must, equally, be deterred from firearms and ammunition,” the magistrate said in handing down his sentence.
Samuel was jailed just under a week after pleading guilty at the same court to charges that on June 17, at Layou, he had in his possession one Glock 22 pistol, serial number LNL 144, and 15 rounds of ammunition without a license under the Firearms Act.
Samuel maintained the not guilty plea for a handling stolen goods charge in relation to the firearm and ammunition, as he had done for all three charges at his June 21 arraignment, at the Serious Offences Court.
The prosecution withdrew a charge of handling stolen goods in relation to the firearm and ammunition.
The firearm and ammunition were found at Samuel’s home as police conducted a raid as part of an investigation into the theft of three Glock pistols and one M4 rifle from the Georgetown Police Station.
The court heard that the firearm and ammunition that Samuel had in his possession, in fact, stolen from the police station.
Burnett said that having examined the guidelines for sentencing, the court began with a starting point of 40% of the maximum of seven years in prison, which translated to 2.8 years.
The aggravating features of the offence included the fact that the firearm and ammunition were illegally obtained, and Samuel had no license.
Further, ammunition was found in the magazine of the firearm, and there was no indication that Samuel had it for any lawful purpose or reason contemplated by the Firearms Act.
He, therefore, increased the sentence by six months, saying that the aggravating features outweigh the mitigating features of the offence.
As regards the offender, Burnett said that the fact that the firearm had ammunition in the magazine led the court to believe that the 15 rounds of ammunition were intended for use in the firearm found in Samuel’s possession.
He said that while Samuel’s counsel, Grant Connell, had said that his client had the firearm because he had been threatened, this could have both favourable and unfavourable consequences as a sort of double-edge sword.
Burnett noted that the lawyer had said that Samuel had received several threats.
The court drew the inference that Samuel obtained the illegal firearm to protect himself and his family from an imminent threat.
The court said this indicated an intention to take the law into his hands if the opportunity arose.
Burnett said that this is an indication of Samuel’s intention to use an illegal item for an unlawful purpose — the infliction of bodily harm, should the need arise.
The senior magistrate said that the quantity of ammunition constitutes an aggravating feature of the case.
The court also considered the prevalence of firearms and firearm offences, and Burnett added that there was no voluntary surrender of the firearm, noting that Samuel handed it over when police went to his home to conduct a search.
The mitigating factors included that there was no evidence that the firearm was used in the commission of an offence, to harm anyone, or to instil fear or apprehension of harm or fear on anyone.
Samuel has no antecedence, is of good character, and in reputable standing in the society, Burnett said.
The court noted the documents that the defence had tendered regarding Samuel’s medical condition.
Burnett gave Samuel the full one-third discount for his guilty plea.
The senior magistrate said that as valiant or well intentioned as Samuel might have been, he had intentionally broken the law, and the reasons his counsel gave for the breach hardly amounted to a justification or lawful excuse.
Burnett said that the court could not overlook Samuel’s intention to take the law into his own hands, if the need arose.
The magistrate imposed the prison sentence, saying that despite the powerful mitigation by Connell, Parliament reflected the seriousness of firearm offences when it set a penalty of a fine of EC$20,000 or seven years in prison or both, on summary conviction.
Burnett said that he saw no reason to depart from the guidelines of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court as regards sentencing for firearm offences.
In addition to the one-third discount for the guilty plea, he gave Samuel a further discount, which brought the prison sentence down to 18 months.
Burnett imposed a fine for the ammunition, having determined that Samuel had means to pay.
Last Wednesday, Burnett reserved his decision to today, after hearing the mitigation of Connell and the sentencing submission of the prosecutor, Police Sergeant Cornelius Tittle.
Connell had argued that his client should not be sent to prison, as doing so would amount to a death sentence.
Samuel is suffering from avascular necrosis — a disease that results from the temporary or permanent loss of blood supply to the bone — and is trying to raise US$12,000 to travel to Cuba for medical attention, the lawyer said.
However, Police Sergeant Renrick Cato, who is also a prosecutor, told the court that he had never known possession of a firearm to be a treatment for an injury.
Cato, who was not prosecuting the matter, had risen towards the end of the submission by his colleague regarding whether suspended sentences are applicable in firearm cases.
Earlier, Tittle had reasoned that there was no medical evidence before the court to definitively indicate that Samuel’s condition would automatically deteriorate should be sentenced to prison.
“We have a problem with firearms. Most of the murders in this country are as a result of firearms,” the prosecutor pointed out, as the defence counsel objected to the word “murders”, suggesting “homicide” instead.