9 years for firearms importer

Joseph Hurlston, 28, was sentenced to nine years imprisonment for importation of firearms after his trial ended in a guilty plea on 9 November.

Hurlston’s charges stem from an incident in the East End this year when police were conducting an operation code named HERD.

In the early hours of 20 April, Hurlston was spotted on the beach by officers, who said he and several other men were acting suspiciously. After conducting surveillance, the officers spotted some of the men walking along the road. Upon approaching them, the men started running and Hurlston was caught not long afterward.

An officer involved in the operation said about six feet from where Hurlston was being held, he spotted a firearm. Hurlston told the officers that he was missing his backpack and that it contained his personal items, more firearms, some cocaine, ganja and hash.

During police patrols that morning, Senior Police Constable Mark Luke had retrieved the backpack, which contained two more firearms, Hurlston’s passport, a bank card, a 9mm hand gun and a revolver, cocaine, hash and ganja.

In a subsequent police interview, Hurlston said he had been involved in a drugs and firearms shipment from Jamaica.

The defendant had pleaded not guilty at the beginning of the trial. However, after his tape recorded interview with police was played in open court, Defence Attorney Lucy Organ opted to have her client plead guilty to importation of firearms.

Three other counts of importing ammunition and possession of ammunition, and possession of a firearms were left on file as part of the deal between Ms Organ and Crown Prosecutor John Masters.

In sentencing Hurlston, Justice Algernon Smith said Section 3 Subsection 1 of the firearms law prohibits the importation of firearms, and Subsection 3 provides for a fine of $100,000 and imprisonment for 20 years. He added that Subsection 2a of the law provides for a term of at least seven years on an early plea of guilty and 10 years in any other case, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

The justice said Hurlston, having changed his plea to guilty, should be treated as one who pleaded guilty and thus seven years is applicable. However, Justice Smith said in light of the circumstances he had to consider whether the sentence should be higher.

“Seven years should be considered when there are no previous convictions and the defendant pleads guilty at an early stage,” he said, adding that Hurlston has a previous record for possession of ganja and that the Crown had called seven witnesses, as well as played the tape policed interview before his guilty plea.

Justice Smith said that for this reason, Hurlston was not entitled to a full discount of a third in such instances. He said the fact that there were three guns involved in the incident was also an aggravating factor. As for the possible use of the firearms, which was briefly at issue by the defence and prosecution, Justice Smith said it was not for the court to speculate.

“Personal safety is not a mitigating factor. The law provides for a license for those who wish to lawfully own or import firearms,” he explained.

The Justice said, “Considering everything, a sentence of nine years is appropriate and the firearms involved should be forfeited.”

Six months already served by Hurlston will be taken into account.

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