A 65-year-old man who had a gun and 19 rounds of ammunition in his home without a licence was spared jail time after his lawyer presented medical reports to the court showing that he is in need to urgent medical attention.
As a result, Senior Magistrate Colin John moved away from a custodial sentence and ordered the man, Khanroy Chewitt, a supervisor, of Park Hill and the United States, to pay EC$25,000 in fines by Jan. 22 or go to prison for two years on each of the charges.
Chewitt was initially arraigned at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court on Jan. 8, when he pleaded not guilty to charges that on Jan. 6, at Park Hill, he had in his possession one .25 Titan pistol and 19 rounds of .25 ammunition without licences issued under the Firearms Act.
He was granted bail in the sum of $5,000 with one surety. and his lawyer, Grant Connell, asked for a speedy disposal of the matters, which were adjourned to last Friday.
The matter was further adjourned to today, and when it was called, Connell asked that the charges be put to his client again.
Chewitt pleaded guilty to both charges.
The facts, read by prosecutor acting Corporal of Police Corlene Samuel, are that on Jan. 6, about 5:10 a.m., PC893 John, was among a party of officers from the narcotics and rapid response units, who, acting on information, went to execute a search warrant at Chewitt’s home.
The party was headed by Inspector Dallaway. On arrival, Sergeant 508 Huggins knocked on the door several times.
After a long delay, the defendant opened the side door and Huggins identified the party and read and showed him the warrant.
Huggins questioned Chewitt as to the location of his bedroom and he led Huggins, John and PC 869 Child to the bedroom, which the officer proceeded to search.
John found the firearm and ammunition in a sock inside the left foot of Clarks shoes under a dressing table.
When asked if he had the relevant licenses for the firearm and ammunition, Chewitt said no.
He then replied, “Me nah know nothing ’bout that. I ain’t live here.”
John arrested Chewitt on suspicion of possession of unlicensed firearm and ammunition and took him and the items to the Criminal Investigation Department in Kingstown.
He volunteered a statement under caution saying that the firearm and ammunition were found in his property in his presence and he had to take responsibility.
In mitigation, Connell noted Chewitt’s age and said he had four children and resides in the United States.
He pointed out that Chewitt has no previous conviction, adding that his client pleaded guilty at the first opportunity to do so.
Connell said the defendant cooperated with the police and gave a statement saying he took responsibility for the firearm and ammunition, they having been found in his bedroom.
“The shoes belong to him,” he said, adding that the legal elements of possession had been made out.
“For the 65 years, he has walked the straight and narrow,” the lawyer said.
He took the court through the sentencing guidelines, which provides for a fine of EC$20,000, seven years imprisonment or both.
Connel said the fact of the case suggested a starting point of 32 months in prison, and argued that when the mitigating and aggravating feature were considered and the one-third discount applied for the guilty plea, the final sentence should be 16 months in prison.
Connell argued that the court should suspend the sentence.
The lawyer said an aggravating feature of the offence was the prevalence of firearm offences in the country
He, however, pointed out that the firearm was found in Chewitt’s home and that he cooperated with the police.
Chewitt is of good character, Connell said.
“Also, the defendants’ present illness seems to be a significant mitigating factor in the circumstances,” he said and passed documents to the prosecutor.
“This is a significant medical issue. The documents were Fedexed from the US,” the lawyer said.
“The excruciating pain that he was in,” Connell said, adding that since he cannot give evidence from the bar table, he sent Chewitt to a local physician “to emphasise his present condition.
“That document is before the court. It is one that may be beyond our ability in SVG to address. We know our position with the health care and the limitations. We are a poor nation,” the lawyer said.
He said his client needs to seek medical attention “urgently and beyond our shores…
“Sending him behind those walls without treatment may be tantamount to death,” the lawyer said and asked the court to impose a fine, adding that the prosecution did agree with a fine.
“… The role of the court is not to fill the jail… We have a gun problem we have a crime problem. The court can’t fix it. You were Commissioner of Police and when you were there, everything was Colin John.
“You are not there anymore and the problem is still there… We have a society problem and we have to fix it from different angles. Not to fill our jails with people like this,” Connell further said, adding that his client “is not a hardened criminal”.
“Yes, he has broken the law but the law shows how you can approach it… You do not crush ripe grapes to show your strength.”
In response, Samuel said Connell did not mention the aggravating feature that police were acting on information.
She said the court also has to look at the public interest element of the case and the atmosphere in St. Vincent and the Grenadines as related to gun offences.
“We have to look at the number of murders we had in 2023. The court has to be mindful of the impression that it gives to the public as it relates to these offences…
“Nowhere in the guidelines does it say that if a person is sick, they can’t go to prison of if you are of certain age cannot go to prison.
“If he claims he was sick, he knows it is an offence to have a firearm without a licence and 19 rounds of ammunition. That is how serious it is.”
In handing down his sentence, John said he has looked at the document presented and they appeared to have come from professional and he would not question their integrity in terms of sending the document.
“I have no choice but to believe what they say. And based on my knowledge of the health system and recommendation of health professionals, I am inclined to accept their recommendations.”
He therefore decided to fine Chewitt EC$15,000 for the firearm and EC$10,00 for the ammunition.
“Notwithstanding the seriousness of the offence, the mitigating outright the aggravating and minded to depart from his original position of a custodial sentence…” John said.
The magistrate further ordered that the firearm and ammunition be confiscated and Chewitt’s travel documents returned to him.