Patrick Powell was found guilty in a Kingston criminal court of failing to hand over his firearm to law enforcement officers when he was ordered to do so by the police as the prime suspect in the murder of 17-year-0ld Kingston College student Khajeel Mais in 2011.
Mais was shot while traveling in a taxi in Havendale on July 1, 2011.
Patrick Powell was charged with the murder of the Kingston College student after initially fleeing the Island and later returning.
Since then Powell was tried for the murder and exonnerated.
Under Jamaican law, Powell faces a maximum of one year in prison or J$300’000, that’s the equivalent of US$2’500.
It seems to me that Patrick Powell who is identified as a businessman will not have any problem deciding what course of action to take.
As ridiculous as the punitive ceiling on this offense is, the trial judge Vaughn Smith offered Powell that if he surrenders the 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.
For those of you who are wondering, how is it possible that a suspect in a murder case, who is accused of using a registered firearm in the commission of that homicide, can refuse to hand over the weapon to police you are not alone.
That a trial judge could be holding out carrots to this offender as an inducement to turn the firearm in is an atrocity.
It is important that we consider the sequence of events and the responsibilities each person have under the law.
Having a registered firearm is a privilege, not a constitutional right in Jamaica. The firearms act has clear guidelines which registered owners must comply with in order to remain registered.
The moment a firearm is no longer registered, for whatever reason, it becomes an illegal weapon.
The legality by which the holder is allowed to have a registered weapon is predicated on the holder’s fidelity to the core stipulations of the governing act.
The rules governing illegal firearms are also clear. According to the records, Patrick Powell has not reported the weapon stolen. He never reported it lost. Yet from what we have learned it is no longer registered.
This makes him guilty of having an illegal firearm.
Anyone who is a licensed holder of a firearm in Jamaica, who is accused of using such firearm in the commission of a crime is bound by law to comply with the demand from law enforcement to hand over the weapon.
Now consider that Powell a licensed firearm holder who was accused of a homicide in which the firearm was alleged to be the weapon used, blatantly thumbs his nose at the system and refuses to hand over the weapon to police on demand.
As a result of his blatant and unbowed defiance, he walked out of a Kingston courtroom a free man while the family of Khajeel Mais is left to wonder where is the justice for them.
Why would any legal firearm user turn over his/her weapon given similar circumstances in the future?
I ask these questions because it is important that these questions get asked of the legislators>
“What are you doing why gaping holes like these are not plugged? “Why are there no laws which make the refusal to turn the weapon over commensurate with the penalty which would have been meted out to a person convicted of murder?
As crime continues to skyrocket on the Island there is no shortage of ideas on what must be done to address this galloping homicide rate.
Among the questions asked is, why is the murder rate so high and the incarceration rate so low?
The answer to those questions may be found in these gaping causeways in the laws which give potential offenders like Patrick Powell and others much leverage to break the most serious laws knowing there would be precious little if any consequences.