The seemingly ammosexual relationship between some of this island’s young men and illegal guns and the ease with which these weapons are brandished in public places need to be stamped out, a High Court judge has said.
“There is something wrong in this society where young men seem to have an ammosexual relationship with firearms where rather than take girls to fetes and show them off, they take their firearms and brandish them about gloating as if to say ‘look at my girl’, said Madam Justice Laurie-Ann Smith-Bovell.
“This behaviour has to be stamped out. We have seen the devastating effects of these intrinsically dangerous weapons in society through the number of deaths due to firearms.
“There is no right to bear arms . . . . The prevalence and the ease at which members of the public have access to illegal firearms ought to be and continue to be of grave concern to right thinking members of society,” she said.
Justice Smith-Bovell made the comments as she sentenced St Michael man Chae Kotane Osuji Branch to pay a total of $40 000 in fines for having a loaded 9 mm semi-automatic desert eagle pistol in a public place four years ago, Half of the fine was to be paid immediately.
Officers went on duty to Well Gap, Cave Hill, St Michael on March 1, 2018 where they observed a large crowd of people – both male and female – on the road at the front of a bar. As the police vehicle approached, people fled on foot in various directions, some with firearms in their possession.
Branch, who was 26 years old at the time, was also seen with a firearm in his right hand. He did not run off at first but when the police vehicle stopped he was observed pushing a firearm in the waist of his pants. He then turned his body away from the officers and started to walk briskly in the opposite direction.
When a police officer shouted “police stop!” Branch looked back and ran off. Officers pursued him through some tracks before he was apprehended and told of the observations of the lawmen. He was searched and the black gun was found containing ammunition.
In handing down the sentence in the No. 4 Supreme Court on Thursday morning Justice Smith-Bovell stated that Branch was in possession of “a powerful handgun capable of firing many rounds of ammunition in quick succession without reloading – a clearly dangerous weapon. The firearm at the time was loaded with 17 rounds of ammunition in its magazine.”
She also pointed to the fact that the gun was being brandished in a public place in a large crowd “clearing putting members of the public in serious danger” and putting the lives of the police at risk given that the chased a man with a loaded firearm.
The judge said the only mitigating factor of the offence was that the firearm and ammunition were recovered. In his favour however, was his early guilty plea and his genuine remorse.
The High Court judge said that after considering the facts of the case and the submissions made by attorneys in the matter the court was of the view that although Branch’s crimes were serious offences, a custodial sentence was not merited as it was not the only sentence that could do justice to the case.
She imposed a fine of $25 000 for the firearm, $20 000 of which had to be paid immediately to the court. The $5 000 balance must be paid in three months. For the 17 rounds of ammunition he was fined $15 000 which must be paid in nine months.
If left unpaid he will spend four years, 121 days in prison. That’s the remainder of a nine-year starting sentence from which the 356 days he had spent on remand was credited as well as a one third discount for his early guilty plea. The mitigating and aggravating factors were also taken into consideration.
Branch was represented by attorney-at-law Safiyah Moore.