Farmer’s effort to protect his farm lands him behind bars
A Layou farmer travelling with an illegal 12-gauge firearm and ammunition in his vehicle, who claimed to possess it to deter thieves from stealing his produce, has been jailed for three years, 10 months.
Desley Gaymes, a father of six children, was discovered in possession of the “relatively new”, lightweight weapon on October 5.
A party of Narcotics personnel, headed by Sergeant Chandler was on mobile patrol, and acting on information received they headed to the vicinity of the Layou police station, where two vehicles were stopped. They were surrounded by officers.
On arrival, Sergeant Chandler took command of the scene, and he as well as one PC Wickham approached a black Suzuki Escudo jeep. They saw Gaymes in this vehicle, and asked him if he had anything to declare. “Officer I have a gun under the seat,” was his reply.
A search of the vehicle revealed a black bag under the front passenger seat, which contained a red bag, that had a firearm inside with two rounds of ammunition attached to the left side. The gun was shown in the courtroom, and a ballistics expert was also given a chance, at one point, to explain its capabilities. Apparently, the weapon, a Costa Mesa 12-gauge, serial number 006293010, is American made, and its maximum effective firing range is three quarters of a mile.
On the scene on October 5, the officers’ next move was to show the weapon to the defendant, and question him about it. He said that the gun belongs to him, and that he put it in the vehicle that night to return to his farm in Layou.
Gaymes also said that he had a gun on his farm for about a month, only for the purposes of securing his farm.
Further, that the firearm was given to him and declared that he would take full responsibility.
A search of his home revealed nothing illegal, and he later volunteered a statement to the police admitting to the offence.
Defense counsel Dr Linton Lewis mitigated on Gaymes’ behalf.
Firstly, he noted his client’s honesty with the police, and that he immediately told them he was in possession of a gun.
However, the main point of his submissions was that Gaymes is the owner of 14 acres of land, on which he plants watermelon, tomatoes, sweet peppers, cucumber, lettuce, peas, plantain and other crops in order to supply to supermarkets. Additionally, he attends to over 100 heads of animals.
He is not excusing the holding of a firearm, Lewis stated, “But mi lady when one looks at what is happening in St Vincent and what has happened to this poor farmer over the years one has to sometimes feel a sense of pain.”
His crops are “very pleasing pickings” for thieves who take them in order to sell, the lawyer commented.
Lewis noted the degree of the problem of theft of produce and livestock in St Vincent. “I myself, been a farmer since 2001 with 17 acres of land. I suffer almost every day from praedial larceny,” he stated.
The circumstances show that the firearm was a deterrent, the counsel submitted, and that it was never used to maim or injure anyone. It was “all about” preventing people from coming on the farm and not about harming anyone, Lewis added.
The lawyer posited that his client was not a person, despite the seriousness of the offence, that deserved a prison sentence.
“My lady there is a tremendous burden imposed upon him and he has made a mistake. I call it a mistake, my lady, because there is no evidence before the court that the gun has ever been used for anything that’s unlawful, except that holding it itself is unlawful.”
“I can’t go as far a reprimand and discharge but a little fine that is not too exorbitant…” he concluded.
It was revealed that the 51-year-old and his girlfriend were both detained on that day, and it is “very trying” circumstances.
Senior Prosecutor Adolphus Delplesche countered that the defendant did not voluntarily hand over the firearm. He informed that members of the Rapid Response Unit were acting on information and had been trailing the vehicle from Rillan Hill.
“The vehicle didn’t just come to a stop accidentally in Layou,” he said.
“I hear my friends saying in mitigation…in sympathy with the farmers,” Delplesche said, noting “I am on record in this court and other courts saying how farmers must be protected.”
The prosecutor has made the point before, insisting that the Praedial Larceny Act be used to charge offenders who have appeared at the court charged instead with basic theft.
“…But the protection of the farmers must not be lost in the seriousness,” of being in possession of an unlicensed firearm, the prosecutor told the court.
“…it must be done within the parameters of the laws of the land,” he submitted.
He asked that the sentence reflect the seriousness of the offence.
Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne sentenced Gaymes using the sentencing guidelines issued by the supreme court.
Viewing the offence as a very high level of seriousness, she began at 5.25 years for the possession of the firearm.
For each aggravating factor she added three months, and took away two months each for the mitigating factors.
This took the sentence to five years, six months, which was reduced to three years and 10 months after the guilty plea was taken into account.
Six months imprisonment was imposed for the possession of the illegal ammunition to run concurrently.