Sentencing adjourned for BB-gun

A man who pleaded guilty to possession of an unlicensed BB-gun may be looking at a minimum prison sentence of 10 years.

Langley Hartman Ebanks, 28, was scheduled to be sentenced on Monday.

He had pleaded guilty in February to possession of a Marksman Repeater .177 (4.5 millimetre) BB handgun.

After Crown Counsel Tonya Lobban set out the facts, however, Defence Attorney Ben Tonner asked for an adjournment.

He told Magistrate Grace Donalds that he had been going to argue that the gun did not fire and was not a lethal barrelled weapon. However, that very morning, the Crown had handed in a statement by the police firearms officer who said the gun was a lethal barrelled weapon and was capable of being discharged.

Whether or not the 10-year minimum sentence is imposed was likely to turn on the definition of lethal barrel weapon, Mr. Tonner said. He needed to confirm how the officer arrived at that finding. There was also the possibility that a Defence witness might be required.

The magistrate adjourned sentencing until 18 April.

According to facts set out by the Crown, the gun was discovered in Ebanks’ luggage at Owen Roberts Airport as he was leaving the island on 25 September 2005.

Ebanks told officers he had not intended to have it in his luggage and it was there by mistake. He also told them it did not work.

Ms Lobban handed up a statement from the firearms officer who said he had tested the gun. He had found it capable of discharging missiles.

Ms Lobban also brought to the court’s attention the amendment to the Firearms Law passed by the Legislative Assembly on 14 October 2005 and assented to by the Governor on 8 November 2005.

The Firearms Law already provided for a fine of up to $100,000 and a prison sentence of up to 20 years for possession of an unlicensed firearm. The amendment provides for a minimum term of imprisonment of 10 years.

For the purposes of this amendment, a firearm referred to in this sub-section is a machine gun, sub-machine gun, rifle, shot gun, pistol or any lethal barrelled weapon from which any shot, bullet or other missile can be discharged.

The law does not define lethal barrelled weapon.

In a previous case, another magistrate ruled that she did not have the power to impose a sentence of 10 years because the Criminal Procedure Code provides that magistrates may pass sentences up to four years subject to the express provision of any other law.

She said the Firearms Law was silent; it did not expressly confer power on the Summary Court to impose a sentence of more than four years.

The Crown gave notice of appeal in that matter (Caymanian Compass, 9 December 2005 and 16 January 2006).

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