Advertisement 87
Advertisement 211
Leroy Cuffy on his way to prison on Monday, July 17, 2023.
Leroy Cuffy on his way to prison on Monday, July 17, 2023.

On April 14, 2021, at a Shop in Glebe Hill, Barrouallie, Leroy Cuffy, a then-31-year-old fisherman, bought rum with the intention of sharing it with his cousin, Mandreca Solomon, 28, a labourer, of Barrouallie,

However, an argument that began because Solomon had been playing with a stray puppy would see Cuffy leaving the scene and returning with a gun with which he shot and killed Solomon.

And, today (Monday) at High Court No. 1, in Kingstown, Justice Brian Cottle ordered that Cuffy spend a further 25 years, nine months and one day in prison for his crimes.

Cuffy pleaded guilty to charges of murder, possession of a firearm with intent to commit an offence, possession of firearm without a licence, and possession of ammunition without a licence.

The facts of the case, as summarised by the judge, are that Cuffy and Solomon lived at Barrouallie and on April 14, 2021, about 9:30 p.m., they were at a neighbourhood shop.

Advertisement 21

Cuffy bought rum that he intended to share with Solomon. However, his cousin was at the time playing with a stray puppy and when he attempted to touch Cuffy, he (Cuffy) protested, saying the puppy was dirty and Solomon should wash his hands before touching the rum bottle or glasses.

An argument broke out between the two men and Cuffy went home and returned a few minutes later with a gun tucked into the waist of his pants.

He used a stone and marked a line on the road and challenged Solomon to cross it, which Solomon declined to do.

The argument became more heated and Cuffy, who appeared to be drunk, drew the gun and charged it.

Solomon asked Cuffy if he had really drawn a gun at him, adding that if he (Solomon) had gone home for a gun, he would have shot Cuffy.

Solomon turned his back to Cuffy and dared Cuffy to shoot him and repeatedly taunted Cuffy, saying that Cuffy could do nothing.

Cuffy asked him if he really wished to see what he could do and he pointed the gun at Solomon and shot him.

Solomon fell to the ground and asked people nearby to call the police.

Cuffy walked away from the scene.

Solomon was later transported to the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital, where he died.

During their investigation, police recovered one spent shell at the scene and the following day, they arrested Cuffy at his home.

He handed over to the police a semi-automatic pistol that was loaded with nine live rounds of 9mm ammunition.

In an interview with police, Cuffy said that he had feared that had he not shot Solomon, he would have gone and gotten his gun and shot him (Cuffy).

The judge noted that in the area, Solomon was popularly known as “Gun Hand”.

In handing down his sentence, the judge noted the maximum sentence for murder is death; for possession of a firearm with intent to commit an offence, it is 25 years; and, for possession of a firearm without a licence — seven years, the same as for possession of ammo without a licence.

He said a social inquiry report showed that Cuffy did not benefit from a secondary education and after school, started but did not complete a programme in carpentry.

Cuffy then engaged in fishing and was able to gain an income for himself.

He had two convictions, for possession of a firearm and possession of ammunition without a licence, offences for which he had been sentenced to five years in prison in 2016.

The social inquiry report said that Cuffy expressed remorse for killing his cousin and asked his aunt to forgive him.

He said that, if possible, he would offer financial assistance to Solomon’s son.

Cuffy told the case worker that he felt that the rum he had consumed that day had contributed to his actions and since being in prison, he has been trying to get along well with fellow inmates.

Members of his community said he was a calm and helpful person but would brandish guns and cutlasses at others when he was drunk.

The judge noted the aims of criminal sentencing, namely retribution, deterrence, prevention and rehabilitation.

He further noted that there are sentencing guidelines, which must be followed unless doing so would lead to injustice, and added that he saw no reason to depart from them in Cuffy’s case.

The judge noted that the prosecution did not seek the death penalty for the murder.

He said that this was quite proper as the killing did not rank among the worst of the worst.

He said there was no suggestion that the conviction merited a whole life sentence as the starting point.

Justice Cottle said that although the murder involved a series of criminal acts, they all involved the possession of the firearm.

The judge, therefore, established a starting point of 40 years imprisonment.

He said that aggravating of the offence was the fact that the murder was committed on a public road in a residential district, resulting in serious risk of injury or death to others in the area at the time.

Mitigating was the fact that there was some degree of provocation

Aggravating of the offender was the fact that Cuffy had two previous convictions for possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition.

In fact, he had only recently completed the five-year imposed in June 2016.

The judge also noted that Cuffy made no effort to assist Solomon after shooting him.

He, however, noted that Cuffy admitted to the offence, cooperated with police and handed over the gun and ammunition.

The court held that the aggravating features of the murder outweighed the mitigating, adding that especially significant was the fact that Cuffy had just completed a sentence for firearm and ammunition when he murdered Solomon.

The judge moved the starting sentence up by two years, to 42 years.

He accorded Cuffy the full one-third discount for the early guilty plea, bringing it to 28 years.

The two years, two months and 29 days that Cuffy spent on remand were deducted, leaving a sentence of 25 years, nine months and one day as of today.

For possession of the firearm with intent to commit an offence, the judge noted that Cuffy had had more than nine rounds of ammunition because when the weapon was recovered, there were still nine rounds in it and one spent shell was recovered at the scene.

He further pointed out that the offence occurred at a shop.

He established a starting point of 18 years and nine months and said there were no aggravating features of the offence, as set out in the guideline.

Mitigating was the fact that the weapon was voluntarily handed over.

Aggravating of Cuffy was his previous conviction for firearm and ammunition and mitigating was his cooperation with the police.

The judge held that these factors balanced each other out and he made no adjustment to the sentence.

Justice Cottle applied the one-third discount for the early guilty plea and subtracted the time spent on remand to arrive at a sentence of 10 years, three months and one day in prison.

Cuffy was sentenced to one year, three months and one day on the firearm and ammunition possession charges, respectively, after the discount and time on remand were discounted.

The judge ordered that the sentences run concurrently and the firearm and ammunition be forfeited to the state.

Renee Simmons appeared for the Crown and Carl Williams represented Cuffy.