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Sunday 22 September 2019
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Penalty for possession of firearms too lenient

ATTORNEY General Faris Al Rawi says financial crimes are treated far more seriously then the crime of firearm possession.

"Under our financial legislative measures we treat the breach of a regulation with by far more severity than we treat with the possession of a firearm or use of a firearm. There is no treatment for trafficking in firearm, whilst we have our citizens locked in their homes afraid of their own society."

Al Rawi was making his contribution in the Parliament on Monday during the debate on the Firearms (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The bill was later passed with Opposition support.

He said the current law does not provide a disaggregation of how to treat with a first, second and third time offender. The AG said fines at summary level were very low, terms of imprisonment were also very low, and the maximum sentence in the current law was 25 years in the Firearms Act.

He said there were 44,000 cases in arrears at the magistracy dated from July 21, 2018, with 11,000 summary offences and 33,000 indictable offences, and 7,045 arms and ammunition cases. The number of first hearings at the magistracy were 477 from 2015-18 with 4,636 matters disposed.

"The judiciary has taken this task in terms of pursuit of this crime in the thousands, but the rate of discovery of firearms outstrips the judicial blueprint. The sentencing that this Parliament is allowed to suggest up to date is for firearm possession it is $15,000 and eight years on summary level.

"Our law is guided in terms of judicial consideration of sentencing, we are guided by two aspects -- the statute which says what the maximum penalties can be, and the sentencing guidelines that the court suggests are to be considered when prescribing a sentence.

"Defendants who are before the court and pleads guilty may be considered for an early discount of one third of any sentence. Judicial officers also tend a rebate in terms of time spent in pre-trial custody. In looking at the characteristics of the defendant, they also look at potential for rehabilitation. Life in TT is 15 to 25 years. Sentencing must always remain a judicial function and strictly preserved by a parliament."

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