Privy Council decision sends man back to prison

A man whose conviction for possessing an unlicensed firearm was upheld by the Privy Council was committed to Northward Prison to complete his 10-year sentence on Wednesday. 

Robert Aaron Crawford’s sentence had been set aside after the Court of Appeal overturned the guilty verdict and sentence in its 2013 summer session. 

Crawford, who appeared in Grand Court on Wednesday, had been sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment after being found guilty in November 2012 of possessing an unlicensed firearm in November 2011. Last month, the Privy Council overturned the appeal court’s decision and upheld the conviction. 

This week, Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryll Richards appeared before Justice Charles Quin. She advised that Crawford’s commitment warrant had been vacated after the Court of Appeal’s judgment. Now that the Privy Council restored that conviction, a new commitment order was needed, she said. 

Justice Quin made the order requiring Crawford, now 23, to serve the remainder of the sentence originally imposed. 

Defense attorney Nick Hoffman asked that a careful calculation be made of the time Crawford had already spent in custody awaiting trial and after his sentence was imposed until he was released by the Court of Appeal. The result needed to be communicated to prison officials, he urged. 

The judge agreed and worded the order accordingly. 

Crawford had chosen to be tried by judge alone. He subsequently appeared before Justice Quin, who found him guilty. 

The charge arose after Crawford was chased by a police officer and was seen throwing something into nearby bush. Police later recovered a loaded German Luger pistol at the scene. 

The Privy Council noted that no one ever suggested that the officer did not see Crawford throw something and that “At no stage during the trial was it suggested on behalf of [Crawford] that the gun had been brought to the scene by police and planted.” 

Justice Quin had directed himself that what mattered was the evidence of the officer who chased Crawford. If it was truthful and reliable, Crawford was guilty; if there was any doubt about the officer seeing a gun, Crawford had to be acquitted. The Privy Council said Justice Quin was right to direct himself that the case depended on the officer’s evidence. 

“Unless there is some error of principle, or material to show he was plainly wrong, this is exactly the kind of assessment which ought not to be disturbed by an appellate court without clear reason,” the Privy Council said. 

The criticisms of the Court of Appeal were not justified, the Privy Council determined, and there was no basis for departing from Justice Quin’s verdict. 

Justice Quin made the order requiring Crawford to serve the remainder of the sentence originally imposed.