Guilty!

Patrick Powell advised of possible saving grace as he awaits sentencing on gun charge

BY TANESHA MUNDLE
Observer staff reporter
mundlet@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

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PARISH Judge Vaughn Smith yesterday advised businessman Patrick Powell that if he surrenders his licensed firearm before his sentencing on August 9, it would help in possibly lowering his sentence for failing to hand over his gun and ammunition to the police for inspection.

Following the guilty verdict in the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court, Smith told Powell and his attorney, Deborah Martin, that since the weapon was never handed over to the police, if the weapon was now turned over to the police it would be a 'mitigating factor' in Powell's sentence.

In handing down the verdict, the judge said: “The Crown has discharged its burden of proof to the requisite standard. The court finds that Mr Powell is in contravention of the Firearms Act.”

Powell, whose bail was extended, is facing a maximum sentence of 12 months in prison or $300,000.

The guilty verdict came approximately six years after he was arrested in July 2011 and subsequently charged in relation to the shooting death of 17-year-old Kingston College student Khajeel Mais.

Powell was arrested on his return to Jamaica in 2011 in relation to the death of Khajeel, who was shot while travelling in a taxi in Havendale on July 1, 2011.

At the time, Powell was a suspect in Mais' death and investigators had asked for his Glock pistol for inspection.

However, the businessman never complied with the request from police officers for him to hand over his weapon, which was neither reported stolen nor lost.

During the trial, Superintendent of Police Clive Walker testified that he had asked Powell to turn over his weapon three times, and had, on each occasion, offered to assist, but Powell either remained silent or stated that he had to consult with his lawyer.

Martin, however, had argued that her client was exercising his constitutional right to remain silent and was well within his right, since he was a murder suspect at the time, and that he had 'good cause'.

But Judge Smith, in his comments before the ruling, said that Powell could not have exercised his right to remain silent, as he was not charged when the request was made of him. He also pointed out that Powell had a legal duty to turn over his weapon to the police when the request was made as per the Firearms Act.

In the meantime, Martin told reporters that her client is obliged to accept the verdict and has done so.

“It was not what we are hoping for, but he (the judge) has given his reasons and there is somewhere else to challenge it, if we so decide,” she said.

Chief Executive Office of the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) Shane Dalling, who was present at the court hearing yesterday, said the verdict has reinforced the message that licensed firearm holders must comply with the regulations.

“We would like to say to our firearm holders, be mindful that the Firearms Act is clear as to how you should conduct yourself, and it was reinstated today by the court that when persons place themselves under the Firearms Act to become a licensed firearm holder, they must also expect to be compliant under the Act with the regulation,” he said.

Dalling added that the FLA will ensure that licensed firearm holders are held accountable for their firearms.

However, he declined to say whether the law needs to be more stringent, given that Powell never produced his firearm and no one knows, to date, if it was stolen, is missing, or what actually happened to the weapon.

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