General — 05 January 2016 — by Rowland A. Parks
Breadwinner gets 5 years for gun

BELIZE CITY, Wed. Dec. 30, 2015–Moments after Bryan Davis was arraigned on charges for possession of an unlicensed firearm and unlicensed ammunition, to which the 26-year-old Sandhill resident pleaded “guilty with an explanation,” with tears in his eyes he hugged his common-law wife, Louise Melissa Meneses, pregnant with their third child, and said his goodbye: “I love you. Please take care of the children for me.”

The couple’s emotional moment was brief, as Davis stretched out his hands, so that the court orderly could handcuff him and take him away.

Fraser had asked the court prosecutor what he was going to do about the charges against Meneses, Davis’ common-law wife, since Davis’ guilty plea was accepted. The prosecutor agreed to drop the two charges against Meneses, who had been charged jointly with Davis. Meneses didn’t have to speak in the proceedings, which lasted only a few minutes.

Davis, a first-time offender, explained to Magistrate Fraser: “I have never gotten a charge yet. This is the first time I am faced with something like this.”

Davis explained that he and Meneses, 23, live quite a distance off the Philip Goldson Highway, the main road that passes through Sandhill Village.

Davis—who claimed that not too long ago, someone had sprayed shots at his house—told the court that the shotgun and cartridges that police had found in his possession were not intended to commit any crime but for his protection and for hunting game.

”I only use the gun to hunt, so that I could help feed my family,” Davis told the court. “I am the breadwinner of my family. I have two young children at home and one on the way. I did not have the gun to harm nobody. I do my lee hunting,” he said.

Magistrate Fraser told Davis, who was not aware that his guilty plea would result in a hefty prison sentence: “When it comes to unlicensed firearm possession, you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t—which means that if you plead not guilty you are going to jail and if you plead guilty you are still going to jail.”

”What you have done is [to] ‘man up’ and take responsibility, so that the two of you do not have to go to jail. I don’t know what the prosecutor will tell you, but hopefully she is not going to jail with you,” Magistrate Fraser told Davis.

The Senior Magistrate added, “They put over extra announcements on the radio. They changed the law so that the good suffer for the bad, and you happen to be one of those who will suffer for the nonsense, other people are doing out here.

“It’s mandatory that you go to jail, I have no choice. You could tell me that you have five small babies; I have no choice. I still have to sentence you to prison.”

Davis, who had described his occupation as a common laborer, in the humble voice he used throughout the proceedings, told the court that he knows that he is not more powerful than the law, and that he knows that he had broken the law by having the gun in his possession.

Fraser then read the police’s evidence from the court record: ”PC Moore and PC Albert went to execute a search at your residence in Sandhill Village. At the time present, were the two of you and three minors. They found the gun and the cartridges in a 5 x10 two-bedroom structure that is elevated about six feet off the ground,” Fraser read.

”The shotgun was found under a makeshift bed, under a green cloth. It was loaded with a 16-gauge cartridge. The firearm was shown to both of you. And you were immediately informed of the offence committed,” Fraser continued.

“I made a mistake,” Davis said, after the Magistrate read the police report.

Davis once more spoke about his children and his pregnant common-law wife.

”A hope eeh waa wait fu yu,” Fraser said.

Davis rejoined, saying, “I think so.”

”I would never put my hand on a next gun,” Davis declared.

Fraser remarked, “Dis da one time ah can’t do anything. The law no mek provison. There was a time when we could a mi give people [a] fine. They cut that out altogether.”

The Senior Magistrate was referring to the 2008 amendment which removed discretion out of the hand of Magistrates, thus making the penalty for any violation of the law a mandatory five-year sentence.

”For the [charge of] kept firearm, you are sentenced to 5 years, and for the [charge of] kept ammunition, 5 years,” Fraser told Davis.

The sentences are to run concurrently, so Davis will spend a total of five years in prison.

The charges against Meneses were dropped, and she walked out the courtroom with tears in her eyes, as Davis was being led away in handcuffs.

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