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Gun court magistrate sworn in

Chief Justice Sir Michael Barnett on Monday swore in the magistrate who will preside over the court charged with dealing with all firearms offenses.

As reported exclusively inThe Nassau Guardianin a previous article,former Attorney General’s Office prosecutor Joyann Ferguson-Pratt will take on that role.The Guardianunderstands that Inspector Clifford Daxon is the court’s prosecutor.

According to a source, Magistrate Ferguson-Pratt had a priest bless the courtroom in the Nassau Street Magistrates’Complex after she was sworn in. Magistrate Ferguson-Pratt did not sit yesterday and it is unclear when she will.

The government in January announced the reintroduction of the Gun Court to address the prevalence of gun crimes in the country. At a press conference to announce the new court, Attorney General John Delaney said the goal of the court is to have matters prosecuted quickly.

As a temporary measure, all new gun cases were assigned to Magistrate Gullimina Archer. However, her court already had a heavy caseload of serious offenses such as murder and armed robbery.

Magistrate Archer has not completed any of the gun cases assigned to her, although they were given short adjournments. Yesterday prosecutors assigned two new gun cases to Magistrate Archer, which were adjourned to September 5.

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 restricted by a mandatory minimum sentence.

Despite restrictive gun possession laws, firearms can be obtained with relative ease and police are often outgunned in shootouts. According to the Royal Bahamas Police Force’s website, police have taken 70 firearms off the streets. However, all of those seizures did not result in arrests as some of the guns were found through track roads and in abandoned cars and buildings.

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 19 murders that occurred so far 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.

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