There is no “right to bear arms” in Barbados and, as such, gun offences should result in stiff sentences to “bring our society back into having respect for life and laws of Barbados”.
Crown Counsel Kevin Forde put forward this strong argument before High Court Judge Madame Justice Laurie-Ann Smith-Bovell today as he submitted that a man who admitted to having an unlicensed 9mm Glock pistol and ten rounds of ammunition should face a starting sentence of ten years in prison.
Romeldo Ricardo Mayers, of Pleasant Hall, St Matthias, Christ Church, had previously pleaded guilty to the charge. He was arrested on August 22, 2019 while travelling in a motor car with the loaded weapon along Pine Road, a public place, in the company of other persons.
Making reference to the prevalence of gun crimes in the country and the recent death of a policeman who was gunned down by unknown perpetrators, Forde said: “I find it imperative to note that his [Mayers’] conviction comes at a time where gun crimes continue to be the scourge of our society . . . . These illegal guns are used to rob, kill and cause serious harm.”
He added that possession of such weapons was a very serious offence.
“. . . Because from possession comes use and from use comes death or serious injury which can be permanent and which will ultimately not only affect the victim but also cause an impact on the lifestyle of immediate family. One cannot call back a bullet once it leaves the barrel of the gun. The only thing stopping that bullet is the intended target,” the prosecutor said.
Forde said it seemed that carrying a firearm was now “quite a popular idea amongst our youth”, some of whom have been seen in videos on social media “casually brandishing” these weapons.
“A behaviour that is also fueled by music which depicts the notion of being in possession of guns and using these guns to kill and mash up people. The music speaks about the SLRs and the 9mm and sending persons to their grave for snitching and shooting at the police. This has become the reality in our society; the last shooting victim being that of a policeman who was gunned down in an attempt to prevent a robbery.
“This is evident of the fact of what these persons will do with these guns. Therefore, there is a need to visit firearm offences with stiff sentences to curb this behavior and bring our society back into having respect for life and the laws of Barbados,” Forde insisted.
He stated that although Mayers had waived his right to having a presentencing report done on his life, “he is no fool” as he was the recipient on an education.
“He knows the difference between right and wrong and that there are consequences for breaking the law. This is a serious offence and a custodial sentence is justified and should be imposed in the circumstances,” the prosecutor from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions submitted.
He further added that while Mayers was in possession of the 9mm pistol there was no evidence to suggest that the firearm was used. However, it could be inferred that the now convicted man “intended to use this firearm as he was arrested in a public place . . . and at the time the gun was loaded with ten rounds of ammunition, placed in his pants pocket, which was ready to be used”.
Forde stuck to the starting sentence of ten years in prison, saying that Mayers had a “deliberate and intentional plan” to possess the ammunition and the firearm.
However, he said, full credit should be given for time spent on remand, and a one-third discount for his guilty plea.
“This sentence would reflect the seriousness of the offence and maintain public confidence in the judicial system,” Forde added.
However, Mayers’ attorney-at-law Angella Mitchell-Gittens submitted that her client should be offered the opportunity given to several convicted persons, in the form of a fine.
She argued that a significant fine in these current times was not “a slap on the wrist” and was indeed punitive.
While the attorney acknowledged that the weapon was found on her client in a public place, she stated that he cooperated with police from the onset, never shifted blame, took responsibility from the start and was remorseful.
Mitchell-Gittens also informed the No. 4 Supreme Court that Mayers’ family was ready and willing to assist him in paying a fine.
He will be sentenced on July 2.