“Justice……must also be seen to be done.” – Lord Hewart
When I consider the word justice, I think about fairness, impartiality, equality for all, and following the law. However, in the Turks and Caicos, it seems that the justice system does not appear to be fair and impartial. Furthermore, many Turks and Caicos believe that that the justice system is one sided and appears to be working against most of the Turks and Caicos Islanders.
Lord Hewart, the Lord Chief Justice of England said that “Justice must not only be done, but it must also be seen to be done.”
Firearms trials in Turks and Caicos
There have been several firearm cases that appear too not be fair. In May 2023, an American Tourist was charged for possession of firearm and ammunition. He pleaded guilty and was eventually fined $3,500. If he did not pay the fine, he would spend 60 days in jail.
In July 2023, another American tourist was charged for possession. He was granted bail despite the opposition from the DPP’s office. He was charged with a fine of $5,000.
In September 2023, another tourist was fined for possession of ammunition and was sentenced to 8 months in prison.
These three examples alone are not consistent and they are a slap on the wrist. Further inconsistencies are when locals are fined with ammunition or guns. There was a case last year in which a local was found with possession of firearms and guns and were sentenced to 7 years in prison. There was another case in which the police found an unlicensed firearm in an individual’s house, and he was sentenced to 11 years in prison.
Is this fair? Is this right? Isn’t this impartial? Isn’t this not following the law. I will be waiting to see the outcome of the trial involving a young lady from Grand Turk who was found with possession of an ammunition. Will she be fine cash only? Will she spend the 12 years as per the law? Will she get a lower sentence like the tourists?
The Firearms ordinance was amended in 2022 which states “A person who contravenes subsection (1) or (2) commits an offence and is liable on conviction on indictment to a mandatory term of imprisonment of not less than twelve years but not exceeding fifteen years and a fine without limit.
If this is the law, then why the tourists were not imprisoned for a minimum of 12 years. Apparently, there are exceptional circumstances where the court can impose a term less than the required mandatory minimum term.
According to the Firearms (amendment) ordinance 2018, the Ordinance states that
“The court in considering for the purposes of subsection (2) whether a sentence of less than mandatory minimum term is just in all the circumstances, may have regard to
- Whether the person convicted of the offence has a previous conviction for an offence under this Ordinance.
- Whether the public interest in preventing the unlawful possession of use, manufacture, transfer, sale, acquisition of firearms would be served by the imposition of a lesser sentence.
These sentences for the tourists are very lenient and the sad thing is that Department for Public Prosecutions is unable to appeal these cases. Shouldn’t the law be change so that the DPP can appeal cases such as these?
I believe in following the law. However, the court must be seen as fair to everyone. No wonder why the people feel that Turks and Caicos Islanders are treated unfairly. The examples I provided with the two Turks and Caicos Islander were sentenced to 7 and 11 years respectively were before the amendment, however, the judge still had exceptional rule.
Therefore, all our eyes are on this case with the young lady in Grand Turk. Will she have a lenient sentence like what the visitors get?