Prosecutors now have greater legislative support in bringing persons charged with firearms-related offences before the court with the passage of a new amendment to the territory’s Explosives Act.
Lawmakers have added several new provisions to the Act by widening the definition of ‘explosives’ to includes explosive materials that may be used in a firearm or used as ammunition.
Gun cartridge cases, blank cartridges, or training cartridges now all fall under the definition of explosives.
While emphasising that gun crimes have no place in the BVI society, government minister Kye Rymer — the initiator of the amendment — said legislators continue to expend every effort so that persons involved in firearms-related offences are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and not released because of technical deficiencies in the legislation.
According to the Minister, the Court of Appeal in 2020 overturned a matter where a guilty plea was accepted for possession of explosives.
At the time, the judge ruled that ammunition could not have been properly charged under the explosives ordinance for possession of explosives.
Rymer said the judgment set a precedence that essentially hindered law enforcement operations and prevented persons from being charged by the police and brought before the court for the possession of ammunition and explosives.
It also stymied cases that were before the court under the Firearms Act at the time.
The newly amended law now ensures the definition of explosives is on par with the definition of ammunition and explosives as stated in the Firearms Act, Rymer explained.
He said the amendment now gives law enforcement the necessary support to bring matters related to gun possession before the court.
Serious conversation needed for gun crimes
In his contribution to the debate on the amendment, Opposition Leader Marlon Penn said while he supports the Bill, the amendment sparks a bigger conversation about serious gun crime that seems to be plaguing the BVI.
“We cannot get to solutions unless we have the conversation,” Penn reasoned.
He said the BVI needs to get back to community policing and argued that notions suggesting ‘there is no integrity in law enforcement’ needs to be dispelled.
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