New directive for firearms cases

The Daily Herald writes that the Prosecutor’s Office published a new directive for firearms cases yesterday, to be applied on all islands of the Caribbean Netherlands, including St. Maarten, a press release states. “The illegal possession of firearms on St. Maarten, Curaçao and the BES islands  is cause for concern. This is clearly shown, for example, after the actions ‘Ta Basta Awor’ (‘It’s been enough,’ an initiative against armed robberies on Curaçao) and ‘Stop, Drop and Go’ on St. Maarten where large numbers of firearms were surrendered and seized.”

It was announced during these actions that more severe penalties for possession of firearms would be introduced. This has come into effect now with the new directive that was published “to emphasise the policy of the Prosecutor’s Office, reduce violence and to improve the security of citizens,” according to the press release. The Prosecutor’s Offices of St. Maarten, Curaçao and Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba will be using the new directive from March 1, taking particular account of recidivism (repeat offences) as a major aggravating circumstance. The Prosecutors will look into not only recidivism for illegal possession of firearms, but also recidivism for violent offenses. The reason for this lies in the fact that a weapon in the hands of a person with a violent past causes an even greater danger to the community.

Also taken into account will be whether the illegal possession of fi rearms has taken place in a public place, the time of day the offence was committed and whether it took place around entertainment venues or during events or public celebrations. The number of firearms also will be an aggravating fact. The principle is that the sentence depends on how many firearms are found on a suspect. For example, if someone has been arrested with two firearms, the Prosecution will call for twice the punishment that would apply for a single firearm.

For a single firearm, sentences vary from 12 months imprisonment for a firearm kept at home that is not in use, to five years imprisonment for a heavy firearm ready for use by a suspect who is reoffending. Sentences of lengths in between can be demanded; for instance, for having possession of a loaded firearm in a car or carrying a firearm in a public place. Being in possession of ammunition carries a sentence of six months’ imprisonment at the most.

The publication, which can be found in Dutch on www.openbaarministerie.org, and the use of guidelines will promote transparency and ensure that similar cases are assessed equally on St. Maarten, Curaçao and the BES islands. St. Maarten Prosecutor’s Office spokeswoman Tineke Kamps said the ‘local’ Prosecutor’s Office applauds joint guidelines such as these, because they ensure the demands for sentencing are the same. “It shouldn’t matter in itself on which island a person is caught with a firearm,” she said .

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