After the boat on which he was travelling developed mechanical problems, Winston Parsons found himself in more hot water when law enforcers found him in possession of a prohibited gun and 67 rounds of ammunition, after the boat was towed into Mustique.
And things became even hotter for the 32-year-old Penniston resident on Wednesday when he appeared at the Serious Offences Court. He was sentenced to four years and nine months for possession of the prohibited gun, a 5.56 mm firearm. He was also sentenced to 15 months imprisonment for possession of 67 rounds of ammunition.
The sentences are to run concurrently.
“Guns are dangerous weapons. They take lives, they ruin families. Stay away from these types of offences. There are not benefits to be derived from picking up guns or walking around with them,” Chief Magistrate Rechanne warned Parsons after handed down the penalties.
Parsons pleaded guilty to both charges and told the Court he found the bag with the gun and ammunition in Canouan.
Ballistics expert, Station Sergeant Julian Caine, a Special Branch Officer, had told the Court earlier that the firearm, usually referred to as the AK pistol, was made in Serbia, has a magazine capacity of 30 rounds, and was in good working conditions.
Caine said the weapon was semi-automatic, and estimated a maximum firing range as the distance from the Serious Offences Court building to beyond the sea walls on Lower Bay Street. He said that with a full 30 round magazine, the gun could create a lot of damage.
In presenting the facts earlier, Prosecutor Renrick Cato told the Court that on July 17, Parsons contacted the owner of a speed boat, operated as a water taxi, to pick him up in Canouan, and on July 18, the boat owner went to Canouan and overnighted.
On July 19 he went to Union Island and picked up one Joel Barker, who boarded the boat with bags and buckets, and they left for Canouan where Parsons boarded the boat along with another person who asked for a ride. They left for mainland St. Vincent but the boat developed mechanical problems, and had to be towed to Mustique. It was on their arrival in Mustique that law officers conducted a search of the boat revealing the gun and ammunition contained in a bag.
“These are serious offences and the crafters of the law have put certain things in place because they are serious offences. A gun is not a walking stick,” the Chief Magistrate told the father of three.
“You have no reason to pick it up, and you had it on you for a period of time. You kept it,” she added.
Prosecutor Cato highlighted the fact that Parsons was traveling to mainland St. Vincent with that gun, along with 67 rounds of ammunition.
“No one knows what he would have done when he reached St. Vincent. The Court must send a strong message”.
In sentencing, the Magistrate made it clear, “I have to follow the guidelines. I can’t just do my own thing.”
She stressed the seriousness, and consequence of the offences. She noted that it was an extremely dangerous firearm. She placed the offence at the highest level in that category of offences.
She found no aggravating factors in relation to Parsons, but in relation to the mitigating ones, she noted that he took responsibility, and had no previous convictions. He also benefitted from one-third reduction in sentence for his guilty plea.
Possession of a prohibited firearm carries a maximum penalty of ten years imprisonment in the Magistrate’s Court, and the Magistrate indicated that she had to use 75 percent of that as starting point before proceeding with her calculations.