A Calder man has been fined for possession of an imitation firearm that looked so real that Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne, on seeing it, commented “That is the toy!?”
Rupert Yearwood, 50, was charged along with Silborne Yearwood, a 27-year-old farmer, that on Oct. 8, 2022, at Calder, he had in his possession a firearm/imitation firearm with intent to commit an offence, to wit, wounding.
However, Rupert pleaded guilty to the charge after the court had heard the first witness.
The prosecution withdrew the charge against Silborne.
The facts of the case are that the virtual complainant (VC) and Yearwood are related but were never on terms.
On Oct. 8, 2022, about 10:20 a.m., the VC and his son were carrying some sticks from under his neighbour’s house onto his land, located above where Yearwood lives.
When the VC was on his way back to the house, Yearwood’s mother came at him with a cutlass.
As a result, they both started to curse, and Yearwood ran toward the VC.
Yearwood then pulled out of his waist something looking like a firearm.
The matter was reported to the police who conducted a search at the house. The search turned up nothing illegal.
At the sentencing hearing at the Serious Offences Court on Monday, Feb. 20, defence counsel Grant Connell told the court that his client was extremely remorseful for his actions.
He said that the brandishing of the imitation firearm was aggravating, although it could not have been of real harm or mortal threat.
The lawyer further stated that there was voluntary surrender of the firearm, adding that it is, in fact, a toy.
He told the court that Yearwood’s uncle, Arnold, “brought it down”.
When the lawyer showed the imitation firearm to the court, the chief magistrate opened her eyes widely and said, “That is the toy?”
The lawyer said it was similar to something that was sold at the former Sports Bros. Ltd, and racked the imitation firearm.
“What!” the chief magistrate exclaimed on hearing the sound.
“When one sees that, one would be afraid,” the lawyer said.
He said there is an ongoing dispute over land and Yearwood “would forever try to tell them don’t trespass and on this occasion his mother was involved and they tried to hit his mother”.
Connell said that for a Caribbean man, when someone hits or says something about one’s mother, “it triggers something in the brain.
“On this occasion, he had this fake gun and he brandished this. He cranked and nothing else. And the individual may have known that because he picked up some big stones to fire at him.”
The lawyer said the defendant knows someone in the area who owns lands, knows both parties and has legal training and may be able to mediate.
He said his client has been doing his farming and keeping on the straight and narrow.
The lawyer asked the court to impose a fine.
Connell suggested that Customs should be as rigid in not allowing toy guns into the country as they are with sex toys.
The lawyer said that “the old-time toys used to have a red ring and used to say ‘Pop! Pop!’
“So, maybe if he had one of those, they would have charged him for discharge,” Connell said, triggering some laughter in the courtroom.
He said that the neighbours should know to leave Yearwood alone.
“Been there, done that. Leave the man alone. He is taking care of his mother, he raising crops. Why are they thiefing his crops?”
In his submission on sentencing, prosecutor Station Sergeant of Police Renrick Cato, noted that the law says that any person who uses a firearm or imitation firearm with the intention to commit an offence or in the commission of an offence, on summary conviction is liable to a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years.
He said that while it was an imitation firearm, the court has to consider the effect on the individual at whom it was brandished.
The prosecutor said he is aware of the ongoing dispute between the parties, adding that the mother of the defendant was involved and her children reacted a particular way.
Cato said that he does not agree with how the situation was handled but said that at the time, that is how the defendant saw it.
He said he would not object to a non-custodial sentence.
In handing down her sentence, the chief magistrate said that the imitation firearm looks very much like a real firearm.
“One particular witness was clear in his evidence as to what transpired. But what is also clear is who was under threat at the time,” Browne said.
“There was a mom, a vulnerable older person and someone charging at her with a cutlass. That must have evoked certain things.”
The chief magistrate said that at the same time, the court frowns on firearm offences but also had to balance this view with the facts of the case.
She noted that the prosecution was at one with counsel regarding a non-custodial sentence.
“But the sentence would be one that would keep him in check,” Browne said, adding, “The circumstances here were serious but still you need to think clearly before you act in certain circumstances.”
She said brandishing the firearm was aggravating, but the fact that it was surrendered balanced this off.
She noted that while Yearwood has previous convictions, he was remorseful and protective of his younger brother who was also charged.
“Even on the day when he sought to become even more enraged and caught up, you shielded him,” she said.
She said Yearwood pleaded guilty at the material time and his counsel seemed to have been engaging the prosecution on the charge and, therefore, the court awarded the full one-third discount.
Browne imposed a one-year bond in the sum of EC$2,500, saying that in light of the fact that there is an ongoing issue, it is likely that there may be more disturbance.
“Land issues are easily resolved in a court of law,” she said, adding that if Yearwood breaks the bond, he must pay the sum forthwith or go to prison for one year.
She also imposed a fine, saying that while the imitation firearm did not function as a working firearm, it was brandished.
Yearwood must pay the EC$3,000 fine by May 31 or spend six months in prison.