Man of previous good character kept loaded gun after finding it
Michael Hugh Powell, 42, was sentenced on Thursday to seven years imprisonment after pleading guilty earlier this year to possession of a loaded, unlicensed .22 Longhorn revolver.
Powell, a linesman for Caribbean Utilities Company, told authorities he found the gun last September when he was working in the Prospect area and went into the bushes to relieve himself. He said he left it in place, but went back that night and took it, subsequently hiding it in his bedroom.
Police subsequently received information and obtained a search warrant. At his home, on 19 November, Powell showed them where the gun was hidden.
Asked why he had kept it instead of turning it in, Powell said a lot of stuff was happening in Cayman and he was just being stupid. He admitted knowing it was loaded because he had opened it.
Crown Counsel Candia James advised the court that the gun had been tested; it had been loaded with nine rounds of live ammunition and a firearms expert fired it twice successfully.
Another firearms examiner confirmed that the gun was operable and a lethal-barrelled weapon.
Ms. James conceded the mitigating factors such as good character, cooperation and guilty plea, but she said the fact the gun was loaded was an aggravating feature and there was no evidence Powell made any effort to hand it over to anyone in authority.
Trevor Burke QC, instructed by Attorney Ben Tonner, argued there were exceptional circumstances in this case that would allow the court to impose less than the mandatory minimum sentence of seven years. Justice Charles Quin reviewed those submissions in his sentencing remarks.
Mr. Burke pointed out that good character was not just a lack of criminal convictions; Powell had positively assisted police in December 2011 when he called to advise them about ganja that had washed ashore. When someone was shot, he went to their aid and called an ambulance, potentially helping to save the man’s life.
Mr. Burke said Powell took the gun to remove it from criminal circulation and did so at night so that the gun owner would not know. There had been an amnesty on firearms the previous year; but there was an absence of any amnesty at the time Powell found the gun. He did make a discreet inquiry for a police officer he knew, but that officer had left the jurisdiction.
Powell was a dedicated, valuable employee and CUC had said they would be pleased to re-employ him should a suitable opening arise, Mr. Burke said.
Reviewing all these facts, Justice Quin said he found no exceptional circumstances that could justify departing from the mandatory minimum sentence required by law.
The judge confessed to being at a complete loss as to why Powell would go back and collect the gun and keep it. Powell was not ignorant of the law; he had held a licence for a shotgun from 1998-2007.
“He was a mature man who knew the consequences,” the judge pointed out.
He said the explanation that Powell took the gun “to remove it from criminal circulation” was implausible.
He listed a number of options Powell could have taken: he could have shown it to his co-workers and they could have reported it with no reproaches; he could have left it where it was and called police or the tips hotline; he could have taken it to police.
Justice Quin said the court had to pass a sentence that would deter others.
Mr. Tonner did not give oral notice of appeal, but he did ask for a copy of the sentencing remarks so that he might go over them with his client as soon as possible.