Mere possession of an unlicensed firearm creates a danger to the public, Justice Charles Quin said when sentencing Bjorn Connery Ebanks to seven years imprisonment.
Ebanks, now 25, pleaded guilty to having a .38 Taurus revolver in the King Road area of West Bay on 31 May 2008 without having a licence for it.
Justice Quin said the sentence had to send a message that would deter others from having an unlicensed firearm. Even if the person possessing it does not use it, it creates a danger to the public because it might get into circulation, he indicated.
The judge pointed out that the Legislative Assembly imposed a mandatory minimum term for this offence.
The Firearms Law was amended in 2005 to provide for a mandatory sentence of at least 10 years, although the offence has carried a maximum of 20 years since at least the 1990s. In 2008, legislators amended the law again to allow the court to give credit for a guilty plea; in such case, the sentence is at least seven years.
That latest amendment also provides for a lesser sentence if the court considers there are exceptional circumstances.
In this case, Justice Quin found there were no exceptional circumstances.
Ebanks always admitted having the gun. Through his attorney, Nicholas Dixey, he claimed it was for protection because he had been shot and seriously injured in May 2005. No one was ever charged in that incident.
In April 2008, Ebanks related, he was shot again and no one was charged. About a month after that incident, he was approached by someone who thought he might be interested in having a gun for protection. He said he got the gun and was promised bullets later.
The day before he was arrested, he said, he got four bullets. He used all four to test fire the gun in a deserted area and he was alone at the time.
Crown Counsel Nicola Moore said Ebanks was arrested after being stopped by a mobile patrol in West Bay around 5.30am. He was searched and the revolver was found in his right rear pants pocket. Swabs taken of his hands showed high levels of gunshot residue.
Having an unlicensed firearm for protection is not a defence in law, she noted.
In passing sentence Justice Quin considered Ebanks as having a ‘fairly good character’ because his previous convictions were mainly for ganja and there were no crimes of violence or dishonesty.
But most important, the judge emphasised, was Ebanks’ early guilty plea.