A young man spent the last two years in jail on a firearms charge only to be freed Wednesday after High Court Judge Carlisle Greaves found that the weapon that landed him before the court was actually what he told the police – a “mock gun”.
Justice Greaves, who gave the decision in the case against Tre Decoursey Lowe, also recommended changes to the Firearms Act to eliminate confusion over such weapons.
Lowe, of Allamby Gap, Spooners Hill, St Michael had been charged with having a .177 Ruger Airsoft pistol without a valid licence to do so on April 27, 2019. He was remanded to custody in May 2019 and pleaded guilty to the charge in April this year.
But when he reappeared in court on May 17 to be sentenced, his lawyer, Shadia Simpson informed the court that she had new information suggesting that the firearm for which her client had been charged might not be a firearm within the meaning of the Firearms Act. The defence lawyer indicated that she wanted to call expert evidence and have a ruling on that issue before there were any further proceedings.
After hearing evidence from expert witnesses, Justice Greaves said the prosecution had not convinced him that “the particular instrument” fell within the law’s definition of a firearm.
“In all the circumstances, I think I must rule in the instant case, that this Airsoft 6 mm calibre pistol does not meet the definition of a firearm under the Firearms Act,” he said. “Alternatively, I hold that the prosecution has failed to establish to my satisfaction that it is not a toy gun.”
The judge relied upon his experience as a puisne judge in Bermuda as further suggested that it might be necessary to amend the Firearms Act.
“I think the Section 2 definition of imitation firearm may need to be amended as well to remove the words “and is not capable” and replace with the words,” whether or not it is capable of discharging [a shot].
“Perhaps a good example may be seen in the Bermuda Firearms Act 1973, which defines an imitation firearm as meaning anything which has the appearance of a firearm,,, whether or not it is capable of discharging any shot, bullet or other missile.
“I consider this a case for which the accused must be allowed to vacate his plea… the indictment is squashed… the accused is discharged. There be no other matters, the accused man be released from prison.”
But as he freed the smiling Lowe, Justice Greaves warned: “You came pretty close, that firearm looked real, real and a man walking around with a mock thing down inside his waist, so an inference can be drawn that that was an imitation firearm intended to be used for an unlawful purpose. Just a slight adjustment in the orders could have and can in the future result in a charge of akin to carrying imitation firearm for the purpose of committing crime.
“So I suggest that you put that down or put them down. Besides all a mock gun does is make you get killed, that is what it does. You pull a mock one and you carry it for your own protection and a man pull a real one because he feels threatened and bruggadong you gone… you got a funeral.
“I don’t understand why young people feel that they have to walk around with these things… I have never seen yet a firearm that makes a boy a man… all it makes you is a target. So I suggest you use this good fortune on this day to live a life that does not make it necessary for you to feel that you got to walk ‘round with one of them things down inside your hip.
“Take this chance to fly right, drop the guns.”
Acting Crown Counsel Rudolph Burnett had told the court that police were on duty on April 27, 2019 when they saw Lowe riding a bicycle along Spooner’s Hill towards Eagle Hall.
When he saw the officers he suddenly turned onto an adjoining road and rode faster, as the police followed.
When he stopped they were informing him of a traffic violation when they noticed a bulge in his right side. They requested a search to which Lowe replied: “I have a mock gun on me.”
He also said he found the weapon at Orange Hill and added: “To be honest it was just for me to collect my girlfriend and get some food. It was no special occasion. It was just for my protection.”