|Gov. offers amnesty for illegal gun surrender||| Print ||
|Sunday, 14 November 2010 08:35|
At its meeting Nov. 9, the Consultative Forum endorsed the proposed changes to the Firearms and Offensive Weapons legislation foreshadowed in a statement by His Exellency Gov. Gordon Wetherell on Oct. 16.
"These changes will provide the courts with greater powers to deal with offenders charged with the possession and use of firearms and other offensive weapons," he stated Nov. 13.
New legislation including the the Firearms (Amendment) Bill 2010, Firearm Related Offences (Detention and Bail) Bill 2010 and the Theft (Amendment) Bill 2010 will soon come into affect, but the governor is giving those in possession of illegal firearms a chance to turn them in without consequence.
"In consultation with the Attorney General and the Commissioner of Police, I have decided to bring these pieces of legislation in to force at the end of the month to provide time for an amnesty to run from 13-30 November. The amnesty is specifically to allow for any persons who, for whatever reason, may be in possession of an illegal firearm, explosive or ammunition to voluntarily surrender or disclose the location of such items. This is a final opportunity for people to surrender offensive weapons without the threat of arrest. Thereafter, anyone found to be in possession of such items will be taken before the Supreme Court and, if found guilty, will be subject to a minimum five year prison sentence with the prospect of a longer period of imprisonment depending on the nature of the offence."
The governor says he hopes that the majority of weapons will be surrendered to police officers. However, arrangements have also been made with a number of Churches for weapons to be surrendered to their Pastors. Details of the procedure for surrendering weapons are listed in a table below.
"It is important that individuals taking advantage of this amnesty contact the police or any pastor or minister of the Gospel listed in Annex C prior to handing over the firearm giving the description of the firearm they are surrendering. Many firearms are marked with the make, model and serial number. It is also very important that any person surrendering a firearm disclose this information so that they will not be subject to prosecution if apprehended by the police while in the process of surrendering a weapon during the amnesty."
Individuals surrendering firearms will be advised about arrangements for a suitable time and manner in which to hand over the weapon or ammunition. They should ensure that the weapon is not openly displayed; and where possible is carried in a secure container.
"I would urge anyone in possession of an illegal firearm to take this opportunity to surrender their weapon or weapons now. Failure to do so for whatever reason will result in individuals facing the much stiffer penalties that will come into force immediately the period of the amnesty ends on 30 November," the governor added.
The Firearms (Amendment) Bill removes certain offences under the Firearms Ordinance from the jurisdiction of the Magistrates Court. They will now be heard directly by the Supreme Court whose sentencing powers have been significantly increased. The amended legislation now provides for the Supreme Court to impose a minimum penalty of 5 years for unlawful possession of a firearm or use of a firearm in the commission of an offence; with a maximum sentence of 15 years.
The Theft (Amendment) Bill 2010 provides for a mandatory sentence of not less than 5 years and a maximum of life imprisonment for any person convicted of using a firearm or offensive weapon in the commission of an aggravated burglary. The Firearm Related Offences (Detention and Bail) Bill provides that applications for bail for all firearm related offences will only be heard by the Supreme Court. Details of the new penalties are at Annex A.
During the period of the amnesty (13-30 November) persons can surrender firearms to any police station or to a pastor or minister of the Gospel listed in Annex C.
List of Police Stations, Pastors and Ministers of the Gospel throughout the Turks and Caicos Islands that persons wishing to hand over firearms can contact:
Churches, Pastors and Ministers of the Gospel
Reverend Samuel Goldstein Williams
Reverend Derek Hamilton
Reverend Derek Browne
Pastor James Prospere
Reverend Llewellyn Handfield
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