An 18-year-old man whose former school said that the BMW he drove as a student might have gone to his head has been jailed for firearm and ammunition.
On Wednesday, at the Serious Offences Court, in Kingstown, Jermaine Andrews was sentenced to two years and nine months for possession of an unlicensed firearm at the Grenadines Wharf, in Kingstown, on Jan. 17.
He was also sentenced to one year and four months for possession of 24 rounds of ammunition, representing the number of rounds in the extended clip that was attached to the firearm.
Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne handed down the concurrent sentences one week after hearing mitigation from defence counsel Grant Connell and sentencing submission by prosecutor Station Sergeant of Police Renrick Cato.
In handing down the sentence, Browne said it is most unfortunate that young men in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are taking up guns instead of books or skills.
She said the gun situation in the country is getting out of control, adding that each case must be adjudicated on its merit as each circumstance is different.
She noted that Andrews was intercepted at the Grenadines Wharf, noting that the court also heard the facts of the case and source of the gun.
iWitness News was reliably informed that Andrews told police that the firearm belonged to someone who was murdered in mid-December and he knew the location of it and went to retrieve it.
The chief magistrate said that among the aggravating features of the offence was that Andrews was in possession of the firearm over a sustained period of time.
She further said it was well concealed in a vehicle in a public place with much traffic and had an extended magazine containing 24 rounds attached to it at 11:30 a.m.
Andrews had the firearm under the front passenger seat of a car he had driven to the Grenadines Wharf in Kingstown.
Browne said that Andrews’ action had shown disregard for the law officers present at the port.
She said that given the circumstances surrounding how the firearm was acquired, the possession might have been motivated by revenge.
The chief magistrate found no mitigating feature of the offence.
She, however, said there were no aggravating features of the first-time offender, and that his age and remorse mitigated in his favour, resulting in six months reduction in the sentence.
The court further reduced the sentence by one year and four months in light of the guilty plea.
Browne said that given the gravity of the offence, Andrews would have faced a stiffer sentence were it not for the “sterling representation” by his lawyer.
During the hearing one week earlier, during which Andrews pleaded guilty to the charge, the court heard that Andrews had dropped out of West St. George Secondary School.
However, iWitness News later learned that he did complete his secondary school education but did not take part in the graduation exercise.
His lawyer, citing a social inquiry report, the contents of which were not read in open court, told the court that both of Andrews’ parents worked in the Grenadines but he was raised by his extended family.
The chief magistrate said that her reading of the report was that Andrews always had a family unit and the provision that that family unit made for him might have caused his behaviour.
Browne spoke of a comment by Andrews’ former principal.
The lawyer said he appreciated the report was not all one-sided. “It painted an entire picture.”
Browne observed that Andrews had been fortunate to always have been provided for, above and beyond the average child, adding that the educator concluded that this might have affected his behaviour.
Connell told the court that he found that comment “a bit disturbing”, adding that he did not see how a parent giving a child a car to drive to school is a problem.
“If even you ride a donkey, it may be perception,” the lawyer said.
But the chief magistrate noted that Andrews had driven a BMW to school and Connell said that one cannot hold this against the child.
The chief magistrate said that the educator did not hold this against Andrews, adding that the educator also spoke about the type of person that Andrews was.
“She had a balanced view of him but the allowance which he was granted could have caused it. So, it is balanced. I have no difficulty with what she said,” Browne said.
But Connell told the court that the report did not say what the educator did to address the situation.
“If the school spots a problem, … that report should go on to say, ‘The school, highlighting this issue, directed him to our counsellors who addressed it and tried to mitigate the potential harm.’”
The lawyer said that basically, the educator was saying that the child’s parents spoiled him.
“But if you see a potential problem, a child who failed CPEA, catapulted into secondary school, clearly of a certain mindset, now drives a BMW, people have a certain perception, step in and say, ‘Young man, please don’t let this position of driving a BMW misguide you, your concept of life.’”
The chief magistrate said it was not known whether this was done.
Connell said it was not in the report.
Andrews is the second 18-year-old to be sentenced for firearm possession in just over a week.