Firearm possession nets 15-month jail sentence

Sint Maarten Courthouse


Source Today Newspaper

GREAT BAY – The Court in First Instance sentenced Joshua Smith Christian on Wednesday November 23 to 15 months of imprisonment with 5 months suspended and 3 years of probation for firearm possession.

The 35-year old defendant wanted the court to believe that he had found the gun in a garbage bag and that he intended to turn it over to the police.

On June 26, the police received a tip about a man walking around with a gun and they accosted Christian. Asked whether he had a weapon on him, the arresting officers only got to hear that Christian had a knife.

The court did not believe the defendant’s claim that he believed the weapon to be a pellet gun either. It was a loaded firearm, containing five rounds of live ammunition.

The judge of instruction released Christian after his arrest. “You were lucky,” the judge noted. “Usually people who are caught with firearms remain behind bars.”

The prosecutor has more reasons for not believing the defendants story that he intended to turn the weapon over to the police. “During you interrogations you said repeatedly that you retained your right to remain silent. You don’t do that when you have a good explanation.”

The prosecutor quoted the firearm legislation. It states that pellet guns and “any other object that is fit for making threats” all fall under the firearm legislation and are therefore forbidden.

“firearms are a big problem on our island,” the prosecutor said. “we don’t want people walking around with guns here.”

She demanded 21 months of imprisonment, of which 6 months conditional, with 2 years of probation. She also asked the court to order the defendant’s immediate imprisonment.

Attorney Geert Hatzmann said that his client had not been very smart about the gun, but he still called on AVAS, a Dutch acronym for absence of all guilt. He pointed out that his client had lost his job, found a new one and has a responsibility towards his children. “Sending him back to prison does not make sense. He will have a criminal record and he will lose his job again.”

Hatzmann suggested a wholly conditional sentence of 18 months, with 3 years of probation and 240 hours of community service.

The court did not go along with that suggestion and dismissed the idea that the defendant was free of all guilt. I don’t believe the story you told here and you did not immediately tell the police you had a weapon either,” the judge said. “I can only guess at the intentions you had with this weapon. Maybe you have gotten away with a conditional sentence if it had been found in your house, but you walked around with a loaded gun in the streets.”

The court expressed its disagreement with the decision of the Judge of Instruction to release the defendant back in June.

The court rejected the demand to imprison Christian on the spot. “Five months after the fact there is no longer a situation of a shocked legal order,” the judge pointed out.