Seven years for modified flare gun

Judge rejects claim of exceptional circumstances

Seymour Patrick Ramsay, 38, was sentenced last week to seven years imprisonment after pleading guilty to possession of an unlicensed firearm. 

Defence Attorney Guy Dilliway-Parry urged the court to say there were exceptional circumstances.  

He described the firearm as a contraption and as being in a very poor state of repair. It could fire, but only with some risk to the user, since the chamber had been bolted on “in a most rudimentary fashion.” 

When tested with a new Remington cartridge, the gun did not fire, Mr. Diliway-Parry pointed out. When it was fixed into a clamp at the police firing range, it did fire, but then fell out of the clamp. 

The attorney submitted that these were exceptional circumstances and Ramsay should therefore receive a lesser sentence. The Firearms Law makes the seven-year sentence a mandatory minimum on a guilty plea, unless there are exceptional circumstances. 

Crown Counsel Laura Manson told Justice Charles Quin that, although the item was an Orion flare gun, it had been modified to chamber 12-gauge shotgun ammunition. A firearms expert examined and test-fired it. His opinion was that it contained a lethally viable barrel and was capable of causing death or serious injury if discharged, Ms Manson said. 

Ramsay was charged following an incident along Sound Way, George Town, in the vicinity of Welly’s Cool Spot, in the early hours of Friday, 6 July 2012. 

Ms Manson said police went to the scene to observe after receiving information. When Ramsay and two others left the bar/restaurant, officers used their vehicle to block the vehicle driven by Ramsay. 

Ramsay manoeuvred his vehicle in an effort to avoid the police; when he was not successful, he got out and ran. 

As he ran, he was seen pulling a gun from his waistband. Despite repeated commands from the officers for him to stop, he continued running until he fell. He then gave himself up. Police recovered the handgun, four shotgun cartridges and a small quantity of ganja.  

Mr. Dilliway-Parry asked the court to take into account Ramsay’s guilty plea. He said Ramsay was given the gun by another person and he took it out of curiosity; he had tried to fire it at the beach, but it didn’t work. 

There was no evidence that Ramsay had the gun to commit any further offence, he had no previous convictions for any firearm, and his convictions were mostly for low-level drug offences. 

Justice Quin said he asked himself the guideline questions: What sort of weapon is involved? What use, if any, has been made of it? With what intention did the defendant have the firearm? What is his record? 

He also cited the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal’s concern: “The mere possession of a firearm, even without any intention to use it for a criminal offence, can still be a danger to the public for the reason that it could get into the hands of someone who does have that intention.” 

The judge said he could not find any exceptional circumstances either for the offender or the offence. Ramsay did not cooperate with police; when apprehended he made deliberate attempts to prevent them from recovering the firearm and cartridges. 

The weapon itself was examined by a local firearms officer and then an overseas expert, Justice Quin noted. Evidence was that the ammunition found with the flare gun was old and not viable. Although a first attempt to fire a cartridge from the police armoury was not successful, the weapon did fire on the second attempt and sustained no damage. 

The judge accepted both opinions and found that the flare gun was a firearm as defined in the Firearms Law. 

For the ganja, he imposed a three-month concurrent sentence. He ordered the gun, ammunition and ganja to be destroyed. He commended the officers who apprehended Ramsay and recovered the gun. He said he was pleased to record that yet another illegal firearm had been taken off the streets. 

Cayman Islands Courthouse

The Law Courts Building in downtown George Town. – Photo: File
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