Tuesday 7 April, 2020

Firearms Act to be reviewed after bail granted in illegal rifle case

Former Police Commissioner,  Cuthbert Phillip (left), Sen. Hermangild Francis (Right)

Former Police Commissioner, Cuthbert Phillip (left), Sen. Hermangild Francis (Right)

A former commissioner of police has called on the government to put stiffer penalties in place for firearm offences.

Mr Cuthbert Phillip made the comments against the backdrop of what he described as a disturbing case in which a Bocage resident was granted bail for possession of a high-powered rifle.

Ronnie Montoute, who was found with a high-powered rifle on Saturday, January 11, 2020, during a police traffic check at Morne Du Don, was granted bail in the sum of $13,000 or suitable surety earlier this week and is remanded at the Bordelais Correctional Facility due to failing to meet his bail conditions.

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“Government needs to set the policy and what I recommend to them, all parties concerned, the commissioner of police, the judiciary, get together and put policies in place or if they need to have regulations or a new act do it,” an irate Phillip explained.

“It not just doing it, but finding out if it is going to work. Because if you have the law and the magistrate have that discretion it’s up to the magistrate, if you believe the law is weak, get past this concern, discuss the matter, bring the experts in and if necessary the law is not cast in stone, put the necessary laws and regulations in place to deal with the matter,” he said.

On Thursday, Minister for Justice and National Security, Senator Hermangild Francis expressed his disappointment with the granting of bail to Ronnie Montoute earlier this week.

According to the Justice minister, the penalties for such offenses are too lenient and he announced plans to urgently have the firearms act reviewed.

M4 assault rifle seized

“What has happened with the latest issue of a young man being found with a high-powered weapon and being bailed by the court has really raised the eyebrows of several persons including myself and I am not very pleased with what has happened,” Francis told news reporters.

The government, he says, will remove the ability of magistrates to deal with gun crime, and allow the high court to handle such matters.

“The government will move expeditiously to amend the firearm act to remove the ability of a magistrate to deal with it. It will now be treated as murder where only the high court will have the ability to grant bail,” Francis said.

According to the Justice Minister, “This case is very troubling in that this weapon found is a high powered weapon. It is an AR15 or a 15.22. “It is from the M16 family and is a caliber 5.56 or .222, the ammunition used in a tw7 or a bushwhacker which is a machine gun,” Francis stated.

What was most disturbing, he added, was that the ammunition found with the M4 rifle was for a higher calibre weapon similar to a machine gun.

“It really appears there’s no discussion between the Chief Magistrate and other magistrates. Every magistrate seems to have their own idea as to how a matter with a firearm should be dealt with, so we are seeing different magistrates giving different sentences and I think it is now for the government to take that ability from the magistrates and put it in the hands of the high court. So we are going to be moving very quickly to put this case into the high court,” the minister said.

The proposal he says will be presented to the Attorney General at the next cabinet meeting.

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