A woman who expected to leave the island on Aug. 19 had her stay extended four days because of a bullet found in her hand luggage at Owen Roberts International Airport.
Charged with possession of an unlicensed firearm, she appeared in Summary Court on Aug. 23. She pleaded guilty to possession of a single round of nine-millimeter ammunition.
Crown counsel Neil Kumar said the defendant and her husband were passing through security at the airport in an attempt to catch a morning flight to Miami. An X-ray of her hand luggage showed one bullet. Security personnel turned the matter over to Customs officers.
The woman has a concealed handgun permit in her home state of North Carolina, Mr. Kumar advised.
Defense attorney John Furniss said the defendant and her husband had come to Cayman for a few days to visit relatives who were staying here. The bag X-rayed at the airport was one she used in the U.S. and it could only be assumed that the single bullet must have fallen out of a box of ammunition, Mr. Furniss indicated.
The defendant “appreciated how professionally the matter had been dealt with,” he added. He also commented on the fact that the bullet would have been in the bag when the defendant passed through one or more U.S. airports on her way here.
Magistrate Valdis Foldats said he could not comment on other countries’ security arrangements, “but I can praise ours.”
He noted that this type of offense happened surprisingly often. Cayman seemed to have people who catch unlicensed firearms at the airport, he added. [Ammunition is included in the definition of firearm in the Firearms Law.] “We have individuals coming through multiple airports without their ammunition being caught,” the magistrate continued: “We catch it here.”
It is hard to send a message to other countries, he said, but all travelers should be aware that some offenses are viewed more seriously in other parts of the world than in their home jurisdictions.
The simplest advice he could give was – If you carry firearms in a bag, do not use that bag to travel internationally.
In the case before him, he accepted Mr. Furniss’ description of the defendant as a person of good character making valuable contributions to her community. He appreciated her comment about the matter being dealt with professionally, and it was something he heard frequently.
He pointed out that the defendant had already suffered financially because she had to rebook her flight and stay over for her court appearance.
In cases where a visitor has a firearm license in his or her own country and has no previous convictions, the courts in Cayman do not impose a conviction unless there is something unusual about the case, the magistrate noted.
For that reason there is no fine, but costs of prosecution are imposed.
On that basis the defendant was ordered to pay $1,000.