National Security Minister Stuart Young said he was upset “in the heart and the core” over the lenient fines imposed by a magistrate for illegal guns and drugs.
“I will breach confidentiality and say this here now in the Parliament to share amongst my colleagues, within the last few weeks dealing with a number of deportations, something struck me and it upset me in the heat and the core. There were persons picked up with illegal firearms, illegal ammunition and narcotics illegally, those persons were taken to court, they pleaded guilty so they didn’t waste judicial time...and you know what the magistrate did? You know what was the fine put to these people? $5,000 for the illegal narcotics and $7,500 for the illegal arms and ammunition,” he said.
Young was speaking during the debate of the Firearms Amendment Bill, at the Parliament sitting yesterday.
He reminded that police officers are putting their lives on the line every day to go after the criminal elements.
“If you do that, colleagues, we cannot call upon the law enforcement officers out there who are putting their lives at risk morning, noon and night to go and fight the criminal element. That is the signal that the judiciary is sending,” he said.
Young said he doesn’t “buy” this thing about sentencing guidelines because at the end of the day there is a discretion.
“Unless the judiciary joins with us in fighting crime, we are going to get nowhere,” he said.
He disclosed that from January 1 to September 6, 2019, police seized a total of 557 illegal firearms and 7,309 rounds of ammunition.
Last year, he said, at this time, some 12,776 illegal rounds of ammunition were seized.
“That is enough for a small militia, enough for a small army, so that is what this legislation is targeting here today,” he said.
He said the strong sentences in the Bill are proportionate in dealing with the nation’s crime problem.
Young said further that illegal firearms were used in the murder of seven fishermen in the Gulf of Paria last July.
“They didn’t just jump off or be thrown off their vessels because the men said to do so, it is because the criminal element are utilising illegal firearms,” he said.
“If we catch the criminals with the illegal firearms, let us throw the full brunt of the law, yes let them be lost in prison; nothing is wrong with that,” Young said, adding that these criminals have taken away the liberties of law-abiding citizens.