The arrest of a man who was sitting
under a tree near a West Bay store holding a toy handgun has raised questions
regarding precisely what Cayman’s law states in relation to imitation firearms.
According to a Royal Cayman Islands
Police press release on the 12 July incident; “Police officers responded and
found that the man was in possession of an imitation firearm. He was arrested
and has since been released on police bail.”
Precisely what the 27-year-old man
was arrested for wasn’t specified in the release.
Subsequent calls to the police
produced no further rationale about the offence for which the man was arrested.
He had not been charged as of press time, and a police spokesperson noted that
a case file would be presented to the Attorney General’s office for review once it was completed..
It is a crime in Cayman to use an
imitation weapon in the commission of another offence, such as a robbery. In
many cases, the punishment upon conviction is the same as that for using a real
firearm in the commission of a crime.
However, the sale of toy guns here
is legal and simply possessing one is not an offence in and of itself.
RCIPS officers said the toys can
put police in a difficult situation, and they have said they wish stores
wouldn’t sell them.
“I would urge store owners to think
about what they are selling,” Police Constable Ian Charlery said. “While it may
not be illegal to sell toy guns, we should all be aware that they are so
life-like they could be used for criminal purposes.”
In the 12 July incident, the man
sitting outside the Caribbean Bakery was an adult and Constable Charlery said
there was no way someone could tell the gun he held was a toy.
“The members of the public who
reported this to us yesterday believed it was a real gun and I’m sure that
anyone faced with it during the commission of a robbery would also believe it
to be real,” he said.
West Bay police station commander
Frank Owens said local neighbourhood policing officers would speak to store
owners and others who sell toy weapons in efforts to raise awareness of how
those are sometimes used in criminal acts.
Under the Cayman Islands Penal
Code, an offensive weapon is defined as “any object made or adapted for use for
causing injury to the person or intended by the person having it with him for
such use by him”.
The code also gives police officers
the power to search any person whom they suspect could have a concealed weapon.
Although simple possession of a toy
gun is not an offence, section 154 of the Penal Code allows for nuisances
offences where someone causes “danger or annoyance” to the general public.
Section 158 of the code, referring
to ‘idle and disorderly persons’, also makes it an offence for someone in a
public place who “conducts himself in a manner likely to cause a breach of the
“This was…a toy gun and had been
purchased from a local store for just a few dollars,” Constable Charlery said.
“But to the naked eye, it looked like the real thing.”