PM gives instructions for new Firearms Act to be amended; describes killer of Salt Spring school boys as terrorist
KINGSTON, Jamaica— Prime Minister Andrew Holness has given instructions for the new Firearms Act to be amended.
The directive comes after the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewelyn, on Monday indicated that her office would be appealing the life sentence imposed on 26-year-old Atlee Murray of March Pen Road, St Catherine, who was caught with an illegal gun, with a view to having the sentence set aside.
The DPP, in a statement, said the sentence exceeds the punishment stipulated by the Firearms Act.
Murray was sentenced on October 26 and ordered to serve 15 years before being eligible to apply for parole. He was also sentenced to nine years for unauthorised possession of ammunition.
On Monday, Llewellyn said the maximum sentence which could have been imposed on Murray for possession of a prohibited weapon was 25 years’ imprisonment, with him serving 10 years before being eligible for parole.
Without speaking to the DPP’s decision or addressing questions that have been raised in the public space since the DPP’s announcement, Holness said: “I have given directives to the Minister of National Security and the Minister of Justice to bring the necessary amendments to the Firearms Act to ensure that there is no ambiguity, no lack of clarity in the application of the penalties recommended by this House”.
He was speaking Tuesday in the House of Representatives as he gave a statement on what he described as the “barbaric killing” of three people, including two boys in Salt Spring, St James on Monday.
In commenting on the Firearms (Prohibition, Restriction and Regulation) Act 2022 which came into operation on November 1 last year, the prime minister noted that “in the process of its implementation, it would appear further review of the Bill would be necessary to align penalties and to ensure that the strongest, unequivocal signals are sent to the criminal element, particularly those who use dangerous weapons, illegal weapons such as high powered guns indiscriminately and kill our children, that they will face the severest penalty applicable under the law”.
In his statement in the House, Holness said “the Parliament should stand in condemnation of this gruesome act”. He added that “each time that this happens we declare and reinforce that our nation does not stand for this, it doesn’t reflect us”.
Noting that the triple murder resulted from a gang feud, the prime minister said “the people who are responsible are gang members who used high powered weapons indiscriminately in a public space with what can only be assumed to be the intention to create fear and panic in the country…a national fear”. He said their action was “the equivalent of a terrorist act and these criminals ought to be described and treated in that form”.
Holness noted that there were amendments to several pieces of key legislation currently before the House that will significantly increase the penalties “for such criminal terrorists, including increasing the penalty for murder. I urge the House to pass these amendments forthwith, before the year is out,” he said.
The prime minister also urged members of Salt Spring and adjoining communities who may have information on the whereabouts of this “criminal terrorist” that they pass it on to the police. “And I urge the police to ensure that the swiftest justice is applied. I urge the police to ensure that the entire area is brought under control and we will give them the necessary powers and authority to carry out their duties within our constitution, (with) respect for human rights and the dignity of the people of the area”.
Continuing, the prime minister said “I want to give the assurance to the nation that the government will do everything within its powers to bring the perpetrator to justice”.
The police have identified the two children and the man who were killed as seven-year-old Justin Perry and nine-year-old Nahcoliva Smith, both students; and Tevin Hayle, otherwise called ‘Bancel’, 26. All three were from Salt Spring.
The three were shot dead when a gunman opened fire on a taxi they were in about 5:20 pm Monday on the Flower Hill main road in Salt Spring, St James.
Police believe Hayle was the intended target of the gunman.