Nine months!

Patrick Powell to serve time in prison for failing to produce licensed gun

BY TANESHA MUNDLE
Observer staff reporter
mundlet@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, August 10, 2017



BUSINESSMAN Patrick Powell broke his silence yesterday on the whereabouts of his licensed firearm, claiming it was stolen from a safe at his house while he was in police custody in 2011. However, that was not enough to prevent him from a nine-month prison sentence.

In fact, his admission appears to have came too late and was not accepted as a truthful explanation by Parish Judge Vaughn Smith, who had told Powell following the guilty verdict that if he surrendered the weapon it would be a mitigating factor in his sentencing.

Powell's attorney, Deborah Martin, told the court, “We don't have the firearm to hand over,” while noting that her client could not have still had the weapon in his possession as the licence was revoked; therefore, he would have been in possession of an illegal firearm.

Judge Smith, before handing down the sentence yesterday in the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court, said the fact that Powell had not turned over the weapon was an aggravating factor as several requests were made by the police and that he was not of the view that a $300,000 fine was an effective sentence that would send a strong message to the more 30,000 licensed firearm holders not to breach the Firearms Act.

“As far as the court is concerned the firearm is still out there, and although it can be said that Mr Powell is not a danger to society the firearm is, and there is no lawful means for which it can be used,” said the judge.

Powell, in his social enquiry report which was submitted to the court, indicated that he had left his weapon in a safe at his home, and on his release from custody in November 2011, found that the safe was disturbed and that the contents were missing.

Judge Smith saied of Powell's explanation: as being very strange.

“I have a difficulty accepting that as true, and I find it strange that it is being mentioned for the first time.”

The judge said that Powell would have known this from November 2011 yet no mention was made of it during the trial, although the essence of the trial was whether or not he had a lawful explanation as to why he did not hand over his firearm, and that up to the trial no report was made to the police of it being lost or stolen, and he was duty bound by law to do so in the circumstances.

Attorney Martin, before the sentence was handed down, tried to persuade the judge to impose a non-custodial sentence, saying that her client had spent five months in jail, although it was largely related to his arrest in relation to the murder of Kingston College student Khajeel Mais.

She also stressed that the case, along with the murder matter for which he was acquitted last October, had caused extreme hardship for him and his family, who had been the subject of numerous threats.

The attorney also highlighted that community members in the social enquiry report had spoken highly of her client, indicating that he was a loving and caring family, man who loved kids and was not a seen as a danger to society.

Martin urged Judge Smith to comply with the recommendation of the report, which asked for Powell to be given a non-custodial sentence, as it would have been consistent with how the court usually treats similar matters.

Following the sentence, Martin said she was not surprised by the outcome as she had recognised that it was being contemplated from the last court date and was very mindful how the court would respond to how the public felt, and that the judge felt he needed to send a strong message to other firearm licensees.

Asked why the defence had not raised the matter concerning Powell's firearm being stolen earlier, she said she was of the view that the matter would have been relevant in the murder trial, where the question of the firearm not being available would have been a concern.

When asked if Powell would be appealing the sentence, the attorney said she has indicated to him what his choices are and it is up to him to indicate what he is going to do, and he has 14 days to come to a decision.

Following Powell's sentencing members of the public who were present at the court quickly expressed satisfaction with the outcome.

One woman was overheard saying, “Him come with him $300,000 fi pay and go home, but him get nine months. God a God; God nah sleep. Him come with him $300,000, but him better carry it back go put in the bank.”

Powell was arrested and charged with failure to hand over his licensed firearm in July 2011. The weapon was needed for testing in relation to the investigation into Mais' murder, which occurred on July 1.

Powell throughout his trial maintained that he had a right to silence. However, the prosecution said that the right to be silent did not apply until he was charged in this matter.

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