Persons found in possession of an illegal firearm near churches, schools or “a substantial public gathering” will be classified as high-level offenders who are now almost guaranteed tougher penalties than other gun offenders.
This was made clear in the second batch of standardised sentencing guidelines that will be used to determine the punishment of these felons, once convicted.
The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) released the guidelines on July 30 with an order for them to officially take effect in all its nine member-jurisdictions — to include the BVI — on September 1.
Meanwhile, other factors that judges must now use to determine higher-level offenders include whether the individual found with the weapon has ‘gang membership’ or an affiliation and whether there was injury or an intention to cause injury, among other things.
Penalties will also be higher if there is evidence that a person was in possession of a gun because he/she is “motivated by revenge”.
Besides firearm-related offences, second set of sentencing guidelines were re-issued for drug and sex crimes, as well as theft, burglary and robbery offenders.
“Since the launch of the first set of guidelines [last year], the [Sentencing Advisory] Committee has not only monitored the existing guidelines for fairness and effectiveness but has also worked on developing new guidelines,” the ECSC said on its official website.
Not meant to restrict judicial discretion
The regional court further made it clear that the standard guidelines does not intend to achieve uniformity in sentences, nor does it intend to restrict judicial discretion.
“By employing measures which demonstrate the consistency of approach and by mandating that clear reasons are provided for sentences passed, these guidelines will assist immensely in maintaining and promoting public confidence and transparency in the criminal justice system,” it stated.
First batch of guidelines
Notably, the first set of guidelines were launched on September 17, last year and came into effect roughly two weeks later on October 1, 2019.
The guidelines were for theft, unlawful and aggravated sexual intercourse, drug-related crime, robbery and rape.
The undertakings are supported by the British High Commission and the US Embassy for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.
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