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Gun case crumbles – Former lawmaker freed again

Irene Penn-O’Neal. File photo

Justice Mario Mitchell today called off the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions’ (ODPP) quest to further prosecute former legislator Irene Penn-O’Neal, in relation to the gun charges of which she was freed two years ago.

The ODPP wanted the Court of Appeal to overturn the not guilty verdict, which was handed down by Senior Magistrate Tamia Richards in July 2015.

Days after Magistrate Richards acquitted Penn-O’Neal, along with her daughter Zubida O’Neal and family friend Shameek Grant, the then DPP Wayne Rajbansie penned a letter stating his intention to appeal the magistrate’s verdict.

Since then, Rajbansie has been replaced by Kim Hollis (QC) as the territory’s DPP.

When the matter was called in the Court of Appeal today, Justice Mitchell struck it off the court’s list.

He explained that the letter of intent filed by the ODPP was not sufficient.

While noting the ODPP’s ‘intent’ to appeal, Justice Mitchell stated that the office did not file an actual ‘notice of appeal’ outlining the reasons it wanted to contest Magistrate Richards’ decision. The Court of Appeal judge subsequently threw out the matter.

Background

Senior Magistrate Richards, in 2015, found the trio not guilty after a fourth accused, Cordell O’Neal, accepted blame for the two guns and ammunition seized during a police raid at the O’Neal residence in Pockwood Pond, Tortola.

Cordell, who pleaded guilty from the outset, is Penn-Oneal’s son. He was sentenced to nearly eight years imprisonment.

His guilty plea is among the reasons Senior Magistrate Richards found the others not guilty.

The senior magistrate previously gave other reasons she did not convict Penn-O’Neal, who is a former lawmaker and member of the Opposition Virgin Islands Party.

According to the senior magistrate, Mrs Penn-O’Neal, who the court heard refused to accept a legal gun while she was a lawmaker, did not appear inconsistent, shaken or stirred while she testified.

“I do not believe she had any knowledge [of the guns being at her home],” Senior Magistrate Richards said in relation to Penn-O’Neal.

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