UPDATED: Legal Scoop | How comes? - The case of the missing gun...the ‘X6 trial’
I am sure you will not be surprised to hear that given the measure of controversy generated by the so-called X6 trial, I promised myself to refresh my knowledge on two things: 1. the provisions of the Firearms Act, and 2. the length and breadth of what constitutes perjury.
I got through the first promise and found myself asking so many questions that I am yet to move on to the second promise. For instance, one of the things we have heard through the media is that the person accused of killing young Kahjeel Mais, viz, Patrick Powell, never produced his licensed firearm, albeit requests from the police that he do so. In fact, it is my understanding that Mr Powell's non-compliance with the request is a matter currently before the courts.
This scenario reminds me of when well-known attorney-at-law, Harold Brady, refused to comply with a lawful request from the commissioners of the Dudus-Manatt Commission of Enquiry that he appear before them to testify. His non-compliance with the request landed him before the courts, whereupon he was tried and fined a whopping $500.
While Brady was vindicated on appeal, that case reaffirmed for me that sometimes it may be more prudent to resist a lawful request and risk a small fine or period of imprisonment than to comply and suffer even more grave consequences. Is that what happened in the so-called X6 case? It now seems that we will never know.
QUESTION NO. 1
However, Section 34 of the version of the Firearms Act (the act) provides that a firearm licence shall last for five years from the date of issue. The evidence adduced in court by the FLA is that the firearm licence issued to Mr Powell for a Glock pistol was renewed in March 2011, just four months before Mais met his untimely demise. This should mean that the licence in question expired some time in 2016.
My first question then is, has Mr Powell's licence for the Glock in question been renewed since 2011?
QUESTION NO. 2
Section 44 (3A) of the act further provides that in order for a firearm holder to renew his licence, he must first, no sooner than a month before the renewal duty is paid, deliver up the firearm in question for inspection to the chief of police of the parish in which he resides. Further, the Collector of Taxes shall not accept any payment in respect of renewal of any firearm licence if it is not also accompanied by a certificate from the relevant chief of police confirming that the firearm in question has been inspected.
My second question, therefore, is, if Mr Powell's firearm licence for the Glock was indeed renewed within the last year and a half, does that mean the police actually got an opportunity to inspect the gun, within the last 18 months, only to later contend at the trial in October that Mr Powell never turned the Glock over to them?
NOTE: I was told by countless gun owners that this requirement is no longer the law and that renewals are done exclusively through the FLA. However, the FLA website, the Ministry of Justice website, Houses of Parliament Library and countless libraries still have this requirement as law. Whether this provision still remains the law is then another question to be asked.
QUESTION NO. 3
If the firearm licence in question has not been renewed since March 2011, which I expect is more likely the case, then my third question would be, is Mr Powell not, therefore, in illegal possession of a Glock firearm pursuant to Section 20 of the act?
After all, Section 20 provides that a person shall not, "save as authorised by a licence which continues in force ... be in possession of a prohibited weapon." If Mr Powell's licence is expired, then it is not "continuing in force", and if it is "not continuing in force," then that would amount to a breach of Section 20 of the act.
QUESTION NO. 4
Finally, it appears to me that if the licence for the Glock in question has not been renewed in the five and a half years since the death of Kahjeel Mais, the only reasonable defence Mr Powell would have to a claim of illegal possession would be that he lost the firearm or it was stolen. However, if the firearm was lost or stolen, but not reported thus, would that not be a breach, in fact, potentially two separate breaches of the act? In the case of the Reverend Al Miller, he reported his firearm lost and was nevertheless charged pursuant to the said Section 41 of the act for negligently losing his firearm.
Having regard to all the foregoing, I am puzzled that the conversation is not taking place (well, certainly not in the public space) about whether other charges for breaches of the act can/will be laid in this case.
In the words of the little girl in the JPS theft of electricity ad, "how comes?"
- Shena Stubbs is an attorney-at-law. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter:@shenastubbs
*NOTE: Previously, this article had referred to attorney Harold Bailey. That was incorrect. It should have been Harold Brady.