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Appeals court sides with businessman convicted for losing firearm

Published:Friday | December 26, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Barbara Gayle, Justice Coordinator

In overturning the conviction of St James businessman Cheddi Creighton, the Court of Appeal has frowned on the fact that he was convicted of a breach of the Firearms Act because he did not have a safe at his house when his licensed firearm was stolen.

In March, Creighton was found guilty of losing his firearm through negligence on May 20, 2013 and fined $80,000 or three months' imprisonment. He paid the fine.

He had reported to the police that he went home and found the house broken into and his firearm stolen from his laptop computer bag. The police went to his home, located in a gated community in Ironshore, St James, and took latent fingerprints from the front door as well as Creighton's fingerprints. However, at the time of his trial, the fingerprints were not presented.

Creighton gave an unsworn statement at his trial that on the day of the incident, he secured the firearm in his house, which was well secured.

He said he was never convicted of any offence and had exhibited caution over the 13 years that he had been a licensed firearm holder. He said he was a director of the chamber of commerce and a member of the St James police civic committee.

Attorney Peter Champagnie, who represented Creighton, argued on appeal that the resident magistrate concluded that the case was one of strict liability as he concentrated on the absence of a safe in the apartment.

Champagnie said the resident magistrate did not address the contents of the unsworn statement as to Creighton's good character and that he lived in a secure community.

SAFE COMMUNITY

The appellate court said: "It is quite obvious that the learned resident magistrate gave attention only to the fact that the firearm had not been left in a safe."

The court said, in so doing, the resident magistrate gave no thought to the security arrangements at the premises, which ought to have guided his consideration of whether there was negligence on the part of the appellant.

The appeals court found that Champagnie was correct in submitting that there were issues that the resident magistrate did not address; for example, the fingerprints of the appellant which were taken to eliminate him from the prints found on the front door.

The court pointed out that at the trial, there was no evidence of the results of the fingerprints. It was the court's finding that the resident magistrate did not consider the good character of the appellant, who happened to be a member of the police civic committee for the parish.

The court said the resident magistrate should not have ignored those matters.

Creighton's conviction was quashed and the sentence set aside.

barbara.gayle@gleanerjm.com