Mandatory Minimum Penalties Needed For Illegal Gun Possession In Jamaica

OPINION: The concept of what constitutes swift, sure and consistent justice seems to be incomprehensible for both the common man and those charged with dispensing it. Recent revelations by members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) has revealed that dozens of people brought before the courts for illegal possession of guns and ammunition in the crime ridden parish of St. James are getting off easy.

According to officers, Jamaica’s High Court judges are handing down suspended sentences, $70,000 fines and even admonitions in place of stringent prison sentences at hard labor. In fact, the most severe punishment as outlined in the six-page, 35 case document, was a five-year sentence handed down in the Western Regional Gun Court.

Only five years you ask? I too almost cursed expletives during my commute to work this morning while reading the story. I am appalled that a judge living in a country like Jamaica where the average citizen has little regard for the laws and justice system would preside and make a mockery of the system after everything that has happened and is happening in regards to gun crimes.

It seems the country cannot leave the judges to use their discretion, commonsense or position of power to aid in the fight against crime to send fear into the hearts of criminals. Leave it up to their whims and fancy and criminals will roam the street as police officers become more afraid to execute an arrest or press for convictions out of fear that after the probationary period or five year vacation is over the criminals will come for revenge.

Implement Mandatory Minimums

In the United States and other countries around the world, the idea that the strong hand of justice will descend on the lawbreaker is made manifest in a myriad of ways and forms that serve to intimidate and deter the would be criminal. Even the buildings in which justice is disseminated, the design and construction add to the surety that American justice (albeit sometimes unfairly meted out to minority peoples and groups especially black and brown bodies) does not play around.

Another tool is mandatory minimums. Minister of Justice, Delroy Chuck should seriously consider bringing to Parliament a bill that requires judges to bring back sentences of no less than a minimum number of years once convicted of illegal possession of guns and ammunition which increases based on the number of offenses. This would assure the security forces and drive some fear into the cold hard hearts of criminals and forces potential offenders to think twice.

For those who would quickly dismiss the possibility because of the bad rap mandatory minimums have had in the US. To you I say Jamaica is in a different position than the United States and while it has been disproportionately applied, that doesn’t mean the bath has to go with the water.



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