A gun dealer who was slapped with charges five years ago after police found guns and ammunition at an authorized location, was granted an absolute discharge by a High Court judge today.
Former president of the Barbados Rifle Association, Michael Ian Holder, of Moravian Drive, Fairholme Gardens, Christ Church pleaded guilty on March 17 to having 19 firearms, including pistols and revolvers, as well as 4,527 rounds of assorted ammunition in his possession on January 31, 2012.
The items were found after police executed a search warrant at an apartment which Holder was renting in Hothersal Turning, St Michael.
However, even though he was the holder of a valid firearms dealer licence, the guns and ammo were not at the location in which he was granted permission to conduct business.
Madam Justice Jacqueline Cornelius pointed out in her ruling today that the charge came about when Holder moved the guns and ammunition from the approved location without first getting written permission from the Commissioner of Police, as stated in Section 8 (4) of the Firearms Act.
In a previous hearing, Holder apologized for his actions and explained that at no point in time was it his intent to break the law.
His attorney-at-law Leslie Cargill, in mitigating on his behalf, also explained that her client cooperated fully with the police and had taken steps to ensure that the guns and ammunition were properly secured.
Cargill also pointed out that her client, who has no previous convictions, had spent three weeks on remand and that the charges had damaged his reputation and embarrassed his family.
Principal Crown Counsel Elwood Watts who prosecuted the case said that charges against Holder were “not the ordinary case of possession of a firearm” and stemmed from “an administrative breach more than a criminal one”.
However, in handing down her sentence in the No. 5 Supreme Court this afternoon, Justice Cornelius made it clear that the court “does not treat lightly the infraction of any condition imposed under . . . licences granted to persons”.
At the same time, she acknowledged that the case was one in which Holder failed to follow an administrative direction.
“While you were charged and pleaded guilty to offences of possession of firearm and ammunition, you are in fact guilty of committing a separate infraction, which is storing the firearms some place [that was not permitted] under your firearms licence. This is a separate violation under the Act altogether, which the requisite powers must deal with to reflect . . . the appropriate punishment for these violations,” she said.
Justice Cornelius also made it clear to Holder, those present at today’s sitting and the public generally, that there was not one law for the Medes and another for the Persians.
“. . . It is not to be thought that persons who come before the court for possession of firearm and ammunition or breaches of conditions of licences granted under the Firearms Act will get off scot-free, but each case will be decided on its merit . . .,” the judge stressed.
To Holder, she said: “In relation to your case, the court does not consider that a custodial sentence is merited, nor does it find it fit to impose punishment upon you based on the particular circumstances of this case
. . . . You are free to go.”