Ammunition fell from suitcase

Visiting diver fined $1,000 for possession of unlicensed bullets

Magistrate Valdis Foldats fined a tourist $1,000 on Thursday and suggested he examine his suitcase more thoroughly before taking another trip.

The fine was for possession of an unlicensed firearm; specifically, a magazine with 12 rounds of live .30 ammunition. Richard Trout, 63, of Sugarland, Texas, pleaded guilty and accepted the summary of facts read by Crown Counsel Marilyn Brandt.

The offence was discovered on Wednesday, 10 July, at Edward Bodden Airport in Little Cayman. The defendant and his wife boarded a Cayman Airways flight from Little Cayman to Grand Cayman as part of their flight home after a diving holiday.

The ramp agent was loading luggage into the cargo area of the plane. As he was handling a green-handled black suitcase, he saw a black metal object fall out of its pocket onto the tarmac.

A co-worker picked it up and asked where it came from. They showed the object to the pilot and police were called. The suitcase belonged to passenger Trout.

Ms Brandt said a firearms officer indicated that the ammunition was a type used in rifles for hunting. He did not test fire any rounds, but his opinion was that they were live.

Questioned by the magistrate, Trout said he does have guns at home in Texas, where he hunts and does target shooting.

Asked where the ammunition had come from, he told the court his father had passed away a couple of years ago; his mother gave him his father’s ammunition. “That’s the only place I can think it came from,” he said, explaining that he had used the suitcase when he moved recently and “just put a lot of stuff in it”.

Trout said the suitcase has a little pocket on the front with a zipper, but normally he never put anything in it.

The magistrate accepted his explanation. He said the fact that the ammunition flew out when the suitcase was being handled supported Trout’s story: if the defendant were trying to hide the bullets or had been engaged in some nefarious activity, he would have secreted it more securely.

Cayman has a completely different philosophy from the US about firearms, the magistrate continued. Offences are extremely serious. He said it was difficult to educate visitors about contraband of any kind: “Make sure you check your suitcase that it’s clean; nothing in it,” he said.

Trout said he would in the future. He told the court he had been to Cayman seven times for diving. “I love this country. I would never knowingly break its laws,” he said.

The magistrate referred to a file of precedents he keeps for similar cases. He noted that, apart from one case in 2006 in which a visitor was sentenced to seven days in custody plus a fine, recent firearms cases involving visitors to these Islands have all been punished by fines.

He followed those precedents and imposed a fine of $1,000. Trout was directed to remain in court while his wife went to a bank to obtain funds. The ammunition was forfeited to be destroyed.

A check with the criminal registry indicated that Trout was able to pay his fine in time to get to the airport for a 5pm departure.