New magistrate appointed for Gun Court
The Judicial and Legal Services Commission has appointed a new magistrate to preside over the Gun Court,The Guardiancan reveal.
Joyann Ferguson-Pratt, a former chief counsel in the Office of the Attorney General, begins sitting today in Court Number 9, Nassau Street, the chambers previously occupied by Magistrate Linda Virgill before her appointment as coroner.
However,The Guardianunderstands that the court does not have a prosecutor yet.
The aim of the specialist court is to try firearms offenses quickly. Before Ferguson-Pratt’s appointment, all new gun cases were assigned to Magistrate Guillimina Archer. She already had partly heard cases and has yet to complete any of the new gun cases.
According to a judicial source, quick trials are an ambitious goal because some defense lawyers’calendars are booked into next year.
The source also pointed out that there is no guarantee that a conviction for gun possession would result in imprisonment since magistrates are no longer straitjacketed by a mandatory minimum sentence.
Despite restrictive gun possession laws, criminals can get them with relative ease. Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade said his officers seized 60 illegal firearms as of February 25.
However, he did not say how many of those seizures resulted in prosecutions. In 2010, police seized 351 illegal firearms and 6,224 rounds of ammunition. In 2009, they seized 312 illegal firearms and 4,388 rounds of ammunition.
Guns were used in 14 of the 17 murders that occurred this year. Police said guns were used in 69 of the 94 murders recorded in 2010.
This is the second time that the country has had a gun court. It remains to be seen whether the reintroduction of the court will adequately address gun crimes.