Ex-con shoots down Holness’ firearm plan

November 30, 2021

An ex-convict who spent six years in prison for illegal possession of a firearm said it would be "unnecessary" and "unfair" to sanction the death penalty on persons found guilty of the crime.

John Brown*, 41, said that he was no gangster. But after police raided a yard in which he was living, they found an illegal firearm and charged him. Brown, a taxi man, believes a move like what is proposed would only be punishing the 'little man'. Brown was responding to hyperbolic statements made on Sunday by Prime Minister and Jamaica Labour Party leader, Andrew Holness, at the party's 78th annual conference at the National Indoor Sports Centre in St Andrew.

"Yuh affi look beyond the surface because guns no build a Jamaica. A di big man dem bring it ... so I don't think it is necessary to give a man di death penalty when di big man dem ago get off free," said Brown, who served his sentence at the Tower Street Adult Correctional Centre and the Tamarind Farm Correctional Centres.

During his remarks, Holness said that "anyone found with an illegal gun should start with the death penalty" as an exception to the Firearms Act. Holness also said that there needs to be stiffer penalties for persons "who import weapons, who provide weapons, who lock weapons, who use them to intimidate people". He also called for reform to the Criminal Justice (Administration) (Amendment) Act, 2015, for non-capital offences, which would effectively throw out a plea bargain deal unless the accused can give certain information on the gun. However, Brown thinks such a move would be ill-advised.

"Like example, a youth can get hold wid a gun and no know weh it a come from. When him cyah give the police information bout di gun, it means say a him alone fi dead?" he quizzed.

"A plea mi plea and get a lesser sentence, enuh. If dem did find mi guilty mi would a get all 10 or 15 years," he said.

Attorney Isat Buchanan, said that Holness' ill-advised comments fly in the face of the guidance provided by the Privy Council, citing the case Trimmingham vs The Queen in 2009.

"A mandatory death penalty is constitutionally offensive for many reasons which can be easily identified by a first year law student," he said.

According to data obtained from the Jamaica Constabulary Force, 6,985 guns have been recovered since 2012.

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