By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
A TEEN’S arraignment and admission of guilt concerning firearm related offences yesterday allowed a court official the opportunity to denounce ongoing gun violence and crime in the country.
Chief Magistrate Joyann-Ferguson Pratt told 19-year-old Jamaal Taylor, who admitted to possessing a loaded pistol and was subsequently sentenced to three years in prison, that if he could not handle the pressures of incarceration he should not have broken the law.
Taylor had been asked if he wished to say anything before sentence was passed on him. He initially said “no”, but changed his mind within seconds.
“Please be lenient on me,” he asked.
“Why do you ask that I be lenient?” the chief magistrate asked.
“This is my first offence and I’m not the type to be in jail. I can’t take the pressure,” Taylor explained.
“You’re contravening the laws of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas by having an illegal firearm in your possession,” the magistrate responded. “When you break the law, you must be prepared to suffer the consequences. People who cannot take the pressure, they stay within the confines of it.
“I want to send a clear message that this type of behaviour is unacceptable. These illegal firearms are wreaking havoc in the community.”
The defendant was brought before the chief magistrate facing a count each of possession of an unlicensed firearm and possession of ammunition.
It was alleged that Taylor, on Monday, January 2, was found with a black and silver Smith & Wesson 9mm pistol and five live rounds of ammunition for the weapon without being the holder of a certificate or license to possess the items.
Taylor, when called on to enter a plea to the charges, admitted guilt.
On the day in question, officers were on mobile patrol in an unmarked police vehicle in the area of Potter’s Cay Dock when they observed Taylor standing on the eastern side of the road.
“This male would have appeared to have looked in the direction of the officers and began acting in a suspicious manner by fiddling with the inside front-liner of his pants,” Sgt 603 Lakisia Moss said.
“Officers approached and asked to conduct a search with respect to dangerous drugs and illegal firearm having identified themselves with a warrant card and verbally. On conducting the search, from the front of the inner pants lining, officers retrieved a black and silver firearm found to be a Smith & Wesson 9mm pistol containing a silver clip with five live rounds of 9mm ammunition,” the police prosecutor added.
Taylor was cautioned, arrested and taken to the Central Police Station before he was taken to the Central Detective Unit where he was invited to take part in an interview in the presence of attorney Tai Pinder.
“The defendant had no comment to the questions except for one. He was asked where he got the weapon from and his response was that he found it,” the court heard.
The police prosecutor said this resulted in him being charged with the offences and indicated that he had no antecedents.
After Taylor’s plea for leniency, the chief magistrate said that violence will continue “unless young people make up in their minds that they will do the right thing.”
“And you went to a place that is frequented by so many families and visitors,” the chief magistrate stressed.
“You would be before me for something more serious had you used the firearm. On the face of it, you’ve had no brush with the law before and so what you need to understand is that curiosity really does kill the cat. Wherever you found that firearm, if what you say is so, you ought to have left it there,” the chief magistrate added.
“Yes, ma’am,” Taylor agreed.
“The Bahamian community at large is looking to the judiciary to deal with people who use firearms. We cannot turn away and pretend it’s not a formidable problem,” Chief Magistrate Ferguson-Pratt said.
“The law empowers the court to give a sentence of up to seven years imprisonment. I do not think your circumstances warrant that having regard to your age, albeit you’re an adult who needs to grow up, this is your first brush with the law.
“I’ve observed that you have some family members in court. I could feel your mother’s disappointment. Look around you. Where are your friends? Surely they must have heard about what happened to Jamaal. None of them are here to support you. The people who are really hurting are the closest to you and they are the people who mean you the very best. Fox Hill (prison) is not a luxury hotel. It’s a correctional facility,” the chief magistrate stressed.
The magistrate said she hoped this message would also serve as a deterrent to others determined to follow along Taylor’s path.
“I believe this is not the end of the world for you. I choose to believe that you can be redeemed and rehabilitated. You’re young enough to bounce back wiser and stronger but I have to send a clear message,” the chief magistrate concluded.
Taylor was sentenced to 36 months on each of the two counts and the sentences were ordered to run concurrently from the date of conviction.