The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP), in deeming the sentences of life imprisonment for illegal possession of a prohibited weapon and unauthorised possession of ammunition passed on St Catherine man Atlee Murray in the Corporate Area Gun Court on Friday a “nullity”, and has indicated that it will be mounting an appeal in the interest of justice.
Murray, who pleaded guilty in the High Court Division of the Gun Court to both offences, was sentenced to life imprisonment with the stipulation that he serve 15 years behind bars before parole eligibility, in respect of the weapon charge, and life imprisonment, with a stipulation that he serve nine years’ imprisonment before being eligible for parole for the ammunition charge. The sentences were ordered to run concurrently.
On Monday, the DPP Paula Llewellyn, KC, in a statement to the media said the decision was taken following perusal of the material in the case after a release by the police hailing the decision as a “landmark” one was seen by the office.
According to the DPP, based on the provisions of Section 5 of the Firearms (Prohibition, Restriction and Regulations) Act, the minimum that Murray could have been sentenced to for the offence of possession of a prohibited weapon was 15 years and the maximum 25 years. He would be eligible for parole, after serving a minimum period of 10 years’ imprisonment.
In respect of the offence of unauthorised possession of ammunition, the ODPP said Murry could only be sentenced to life with the stipulation that he serve a minimum period of 15 years behind bars before being eligible for parole.
“In view of the aforesaid, the sentence passed on the accused for the offence of possession of prohibited weapon exceeded that which the Act provided for and the sentence passed on him for the offence of unauthorised possession of ammunition was below that which could be imposed. These sentences are therefore a nullity,” the ODPP said.
“As a result of these purported sentences, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, in the interest of justice will be filing an appeal in respect of the sentences imposed, where the Court of Appeal can review the entire handling of the case and deal with it as they deem appropriate. The ODPP would therefore be requesting that the Court of Appeal set aside the sentences as they would be a nullity. In light of the fact that the Court of Appeal possesses wide powers, including sentencing, it is in their prerogative to deal with the matter as they see fit to meet the justice of the case,” the statement said.
According to the facts unveiled during the trial on Christmas Eve last year, the police were on patrol in the March Pen Road area in Spanish Town, St Catherine, when men, including Murray, were observed behaving suspiciously, prompting the police to stop.
Prosecutors said when the police stopped Murray ran from the group and was pursued. During that chase, it was observed that he removed a firearm from his waistband and threw it to the ground. He was accosted and the firearm was retrieved. This firearm contained a magazine and 13 9mm cartridges. He was charged for the offences of possession of a prohibited weapon and unauthorised possession of ammunition.