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Man gets 7 years jail time for firearm possession

A .22 Longhorn RevolverMichael Hugh Powell was sentenced by Justice Charles Quin in Cayman’s Grand Court on Thursday May 30th to the minimum sentence of 7 years’ imprisonment, with time spent in custody to be deducted.

Powell had pleaded guilty to the charge of possessing an unlicensed firearm.

On the 19th of November 2012 at a house in Breakers, Bodden Town, Grand Cayman, the police found a firearm – a .22 Longhorn Revolver. The police had secured a search warrant on the premises for an incident and during the search Powell directed the attention of one of the police officers to his bed and with his right foot dragged a towel from under the nightstand in the bedroom inviting the officer to view the firearm. The revolver was found to contain 9 live rounds of .22 ammunition.

The Defendant (Powell) admitted to possession of the firearm and stated that he found it in the bushes whilst working on the road in the Prospect area. The Defendant accepted that it was “a very stupid mistake” of his not to have handed the firearm over to the police when he found it.

The Defendant told the police in an interview that, whilst on the job as a Caribbean Utilities Company  (CUC) linesman in the Prospect area, nature called and he went over to a bush area to relieve himself. The Defendant said whilst at that spot he noticed a bucket and a crate and he assumed it was a location where   people had been “hanging out.”  The Defendant said something had been burned there and there were many footprints in the area.

The Defendant said he saw the gun under the crate, but he put the crate back over the gun and left the area and returned to his job site.

He said that sometime during that same night he returned to the location in the bushes and took possession of the gun. He kept the gun from sometime in early September to mid November until the gun was discovered at his home. He admitted he knew the firearm had ammunition because he had opened it and seen it.

Powell admitted it was stupid to have kept the firearm and said, “Being stupid, not thinking, I took it home. I wrapped it up in a towel.”

Asked why he kept the weapon he said: “… I guess with a lot of stuff happening in Cayman and … its just being stupid…”

He claimed that he had not looked at the weapon until about a week prior to his arrest when he was cleaning his abode.

“I moved it, picked it up, a week ago,” he said, “when I was cleaning the house and when I tried to open it again it wouldn’t open and I said, this ain’t no good, it seized up. I just wrapped it back up and throw it under there [the nightstand] again.”

A RCIPS firearms instructor, PC Stewart, tested the firearm and he fired two of the nine rounds of ammunition, which were in the firearm, and they discharged successfully, and left the firearm with seven viable rounds of ammunition.

The Tools and Firearms Examiner, Mr. Allen Greenspan, next tested the firearm, and found it to be operable.  Mr. Greenspan also confirmed that, in his view, it was a lethally barrelled firearm, capable of causing death or serious injury.

Leading counsel for the Defence, Mr. Trevor Burke QC submitted there were exceptional circumstances in relation to the offence. He said Powell:

Is a man of hitherto good character.

Made an immediate and full and frank admission to the police and was cooperative throughout.

Examined the firearm twice, but apart from examining it on those two occasions, the firearm remained hidden and secure at his home.

In keeping the firearm, the Defendant effectively removed the gun from criminal circulation on the island.

Mr. Burke also pointed out that it would have been easier for the Defendant to leave the firearm where he found it in the bushes, but he decided to take it home, even though he had no intention of using it. The Defendant said he took the firearm home and hid it, and that the firearm never left his house.

The Leading counsel brought to the court’s  attention that there was an amnesty on all firearms from July 2010 to July 2011 when 23 firearms were surrendered and that those 23 persons were in the same position as the Defendant – save for the fact that the Defendant is outside of the amnesty period. Mr. Burke submitted that if the amnesty had been in place he would have surrendered the firearm.

“Glowing” personal and character references from “highly respected persons” in the Cayman Islands – written on the Defendant’s behalf were provided to the Court.

Justice Quin before sentencing said the Defendant was very familiar with firearms and particularly with the distinction between a lawful firearm and an unlawful firearm.  He was the user on his father’s firearm licence for a shotgun, and he, himself, had a firearm licence for a Mossberg 410 shotgun for almost a decade – from 1998 to 2007.

“Accordingly,” he said,  “there can be no doubt that the Defendant knew that this was an illegal firearm. The Defendant must have also realised that it was a loaded illegal firearm, in that, it contained nine rounds of ammunition.

“The Court is at a complete loss as to why the Defendant should return to the bushes where he saw the firearm and collect the firearm and further, why the Defendant would keep the firearm in his custody and under his control for so many weeks.

“With   the   greatest   of respect   to the Defendant ‘s leading   counsel, the submission that the Defendant went back to the bushes in the middle of the night to recover the firearm in order to remove it from criminal circulation is implausible.   For the Defendant   to have gone out of his way to take possession of an illegal firearm and then to keep it for 9 or 10 weeks only served to compound his “very stupid mistake.”

“If the Defendant wanted to remove the firearm from criminal circulation, he should have immediately reported it to the police.  The Defendant is an intelligent man who knew of, and understood the serious consequences of being in possession of an illegal firearm.

“The Defendant had several different options through which he could have reported this illegal firearm and its ammunition, thereby removing it from any potential criminal circulation.

“When the Defendant first discovered the firearm he should have shown it to his fellow CUC workers, and they could have reported it to the police without any adverse repercussions whatsoever. Additionally the Defendant could have left the firearm at the scene and called the police or the confidential hotline. Alternatively, as soon as the firearm came into his possession, the Defendant could have taken it to the police.

“It is extremely regrettable that it was not until the Defendant was arrested and the police (acting on information they had received) were executing a search warrant at his home, that he then revealed to the RCIPS that he had the firearm in his possession.

“Having considered all submissions made by leading counsel, and, having read the selection of very impressive references submitted on behalf of the Defendant, I cannot find that there are any exceptional circumstances in relation to the offence or the offender, which would justify this Court departing   from   the   minimum   sentence [seven years] prescribed   by   the   Legislative Assembly.”

The judge also said, “There is no evidence of any specific criminal intent to endanger life or to cause fear of violence. However, possession of an unlicensed firearm is, by its very nature, a very serious criminal offence.”







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