Crown withdraws charge for possession of slingshot
A four-year resident ended up spending five more days than he had planned after he attempted to depart Cayman while wearing a bulletproof vest.
Steven Bingham, 36, appeared in Summary Court late Thursday and pleaded guilty to possession of the vest on May 31 without the written permission of the Commissioner of Police.
Magistrate Valdis Foldats pointed to local concerns about unlicensed firearms and the amendment to the Firearms Law that regulates bulletproof vests. The offense is regarded so seriously that the maximum penalty is 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of $100,000 – the same as for firearms.
“Bulletproof vests are used by criminals and gangs to go about their criminal activity – robbery, drug deals and so on. We take a strong view on firearm offenses …. It’s important the public understand how serious this is,” he said.
Crown counsel Toyin Salako said Bingham was to depart Cayman on May 31 by way of Owen Roberts International Airport. As he went through security, the alarm went off. A pat-down search revealed that he was wearing a bulletproof vest. When interviewed, he said he didn’t know it was an offense. He refused to answer any questions as to where he had obtained it.
Defense attorney Clyde Allen explained that Bingham had lived in Cayman on work permit as a barman for four years. He was returning home to Ontario, Canada, to take over his family’s business. He had packed up all of his things and, for weight purposes, he wore the vest rather than pack it. When he went through security, it was actually his belt that set off the alarm.
“The court’s concern is – where did this vest come from?” the magistrate said.
Mr. Allen replied that Bingham had wanted to be very careful in what he said during his interview.
“That’s his right, but can he assist officials? … Was the vest obtained on island?” the magistrate asked.
Mr. Allen said it was an item of memorabilia that was never worn, never used for any purpose whatsoever.
The magistrate asked if the Crown had any photos of the vest. “There is body armor that is high-tech, meant to protect you from high velocity-projectiles,” he pointed out.
Mr. Allen advised that the vest was bought online with a credit card. “That gave him some assurance it was legal, but ignorance of the law is no excuse,” he agreed.
The attorney described Bingham as incredibly contrite and well respected on the island. He asked that the vest be treated as the courts have been treating cases involving unlicensed ammunition – with a fine.
The magistrate agreed, but said the fine had to be stiff in order to send a message. He imposed a fine of $1,000 and ordered that the vest be forfeited and destroyed.
Bingham was also charged with possession of a slingshot that was in his luggage. The charge was initially brought under the Customs (Prohibited Goods) Order of 2003. A section dealing with weapons specifically prohibits importation of “bows, catapults or other manually operated weapons which are capable of projecting arrows or other missiles” unless the item is accompanied by a permit signed by the Commissioner of Police.
The magistrate asked what the penalty was, since the order itself does not contain a penalty section.
Ms. Salako pointed out that the Customs Law deals with all goods of which the import or export is restricted or prohibited by any other law.
The Penal Code defines “prohibited weapon” and “restricted weapon” by listing specific items – from machine guns to flick knives. The magistrate noted that neither catapult nor slingshot was on either list. “The Penal Code is very specific,” he said. “If it’s not listed there, it’s not prohibited.”
Ms. Salako withdrew the charge.
Mr. Allen advised that his client was handing over the slingshot voluntarily.