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Owia man escapes lengthy jail sentence

Owia man escapes lengthy jail sentence
Lenrick Nero

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An Owia resident who made a gun to protect himself after being stabbed has been given a chance, and will not go to jail for an offence that usually warrants lengthy prison time.

Just before she sentenced him on Tuesday, June 2, Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne informed Lenrick Nero that the offence that he was charged with had a maximum of seven years imprisonment, or a $20,000 fine, or both.

The 27-year-old was first brought to court after being charged with possession of a homemade firearm and two 12-gauge bullets last Wednesday, May 27 but his sentencing was adjourned to this week.

The court was told that on the said date, at 4:15 am Corporal 43 Nigel John headed a party of Rapid Response Unit (RRU) officers to Nero’s home to execute a search warrant with respect to firearms and ammunition.

Upon arrival at his home the officers met Nero, who consented to the search. When asked if he had anything illegal in his possession, Nero led the Corporal “quietly” to his bedroom.

Inside a clothes cupboard, a blue Jansport bag was retrieved and handed over to Corporal John. The bag contained a red and black jacket and inside the jacket were two pieces of pipe, wrapped with electrical tape, as well as two bullets.

“A man stab me up some time ago so me make it” Nero informed the Corporal.

A gazetted ballistics expert tested the homemade firearm and it was found to be capable of firing.

Connell pleaded for his client, who is a father of two and the main breadwinner of the household, who had no previous criminal record, and cooperated with the police; to be given a suspended prison sentence.

As background, he informed that Nero worked for nine years as a landscaper on Mustique, but is a victim of the COVID-19 layoff. Nero had another child who died at the age of six due to cancer.

A document was submitted to the court by Connell, authored by a pastor, who shed light on Nero’s personality. He spoke of him in kind regard, noting the defendant was a good father, well mannered, disciplined, and industrious.

“…One who has never acted contrary to the law. He speaks well of this young man…this says that this young man is not a threat to society,” Connell stated.

He also submitted a medical form which supported the defence’s position that Nero was stabbed about his body with a knife in February. ‘Several’ reports were made to the police since then, the lawyer informed, “but nothing has been done.”

“In fear Nero built his firearm, kept it in his room for protection. He never once carried it outside his house,” Connell posited, adding, “The mindset of this man is not that of a hardened criminal. He acted on instinct.”

The lawyer claimed that his client never had an intention to brandish the weapon on the streets.

“You cannot take the law into your own hand …but you see everybody want to go to heaven but nobody want to die,” the lawyer said.

Senior Prosecutor Adolphus Delplesche said the report made by Nero is under investigation.

The prosecutor commented that the case at hand was very sad, and unfortunate.

“…he made this gun to defend himself…and given the climate, we are all living in St Vincent now…a man have a right to defend himself, the law allows it,” the prosecutor noted.

Delplesche said that Corporal 43 John informed him that Nero was cooperative.

“Corporal John is one of those officers who do what he have to do, fairly, fearlessly,” he added.

While acknowledging that the document from the pastor was ‘glowing’, the prosecutor indicated that the seriousness of the offence should not be lost in the unfortunate way that it happened.

The chief magistrate noted that the offence is a serious one.

She commented, “I should say the court is minded that there is no indication as to when this was made, this homemade gun was made. It could have been before this incident occurred in February 2020.”

Browne acknowledged that the circumstances were unfortunate, but said that if the sentencing guidelines are followed, “the reason given as to why the weapon was made is aggravating. And makes the offence worse. Because the purpose for which it was had was for retaliation.”

However, she said that every case was to be determined on its own merits and sentenced Nero to two years in prison, suspended for two years. However a fine was also attached and Nero must pay $10,000 by July 2 or be incarcerated for nine months.

For the ammunition possession he had to pay $800 forthwith, and this was done.

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