No innocent purpose for bullet-proof vest

There can be no innocent purpose for having a bullet-proof vest without permission of the Chief of Police, Chief Magistrate Margaret Ramsay-Hale said in handing down a sentence of 12 months for the offence.

Donnovan Joshua Petterson, 36, admitted having the vest in his Eastern Avenue residence on Sunday, 21 December.

Before sentence was passed earlier this month, Defence Attorney John Furniss revealed that the vest had been issued to a police officer in July 2008.

Crown Counsel Bethea Christian said Petterson had told officers he found the vest on the beach at Smith Cove four days before they came to his house. He thought it was a life vest and kept it, only examining it later. It had five spent bullets in it.

Ms Christian explained that officers went to Petterson’s house after an incident the previous night. Police were on routine patrol in an area known to be used for drug activities.

Several persons were there and one man was seen acting suspiciously. When he was held onto by his waist band, he broke away and ran. An officer gave chase, but stopped after hearing an explosion that sounded like a gunshot in the direction of the chase.

Acting on information received, officers obtained a search warrant and went to Petterson’s residence the next day.

He told them he had been at a party in Newlands the previous night. Several people gave statements that he was there from around 8.30pm to 3am.

The incident involving a police chase took place close to midnight. The officer said it was Petterson he was chasing but there was no other evidence. No further charges were filed.

Mr. Furniss said there were no aggravating features to the case. Petterson had not used the vest and had not been seen with any weapon.

He said the legislature had taken the offence seriously and he had to accept that the sentence must be a period of custody.

After taking time to consider, the magistrate she passed the 12-month term. She said possession of a bullet-proof vest must be a matter of public concern because there could be no innocent purpose for it. Petterson may have come by the vest innocently, but decided to keep it.

Why did he keep it? she wondered. Why did he not surrender it to authorities?

A 2005 amendment to the Firearms Law makes it illegal to have a bullet-proof vest without permission from the Commissioner of Police.