Editorial Staff
7 months ago

Editorial Staff
7 months ago

Great grandmother released from jail on gun charge in The Bahamas

(Loop)
An 81-year-old great-grandmother, who suffers from early dementia, hyperlipidemia issues, and an enlarged heart that requires medication, was released from prison after serving half of her one-year jail term on a gun-related charge.

The Court of Appeal in a majority ruling ordered the release of Freda Hart, who had been convicted of trying to conceal an unlicensed gun that belonged to her grandson when police armed with a search warrant came to her house in December 2020.

“There can be no doubt that an appellant’s age and medical condition are relevant factors in determining a proper sentence which a court should impose,” Sir Michael Barnett said read on behalf of the majority, adding that her medical records were not shown to the magistrate during the sentencing.

Hart was sentenced In February 2023,  after being convicted in the Magistrate’s Court of one count of possession of an unlicensed firearm and one count of possession of ammunition. Her grandson was also charged with the same offences and was also jailed for a longer period.

She had served six months and 12 days in prison before the Court of Appeal ordered her immediate release, saying she had served sufficient time for her “serious mistake”.

“The court appreciates that it should be loathe to interfere with the sentence of a sentencing judge and should only do so in limited circumstances. However, the appellant’s medical evidence was not before the magistrate.

“At the time of sentencing, the appellant was not represented by counsel. Had the magistrate had the benefit of full argument and the appellant’s medical report to assist him, he may well have come to a different sentencing decision. Therefore, the magistrate was unable to fully consider all relevant factors, particularly the appellant’s medical condition,” said Sir Michael.

The Court of Appeal said that having the benefit of that information, it is “satisfied that this is a proper case to interfere with the sentencing discretion of the magistrate.

“The appellant has already spent over six months and 12 days in prison. Given her age and medical condition, the court is satisfied that this is sufficient punishment for her serious mistake. She should spend no further time in prison and should be released immediately.”

However, Justice Jon Isaacs, in a dissenting opinion wrote that he is “unable to agree with his decision to interfere with the sentence imposed by the magistrate.

“The actions of the intended appellant in attempting to conceal the firearm amounted to shielding her co-accused. Such actions hinder the police’s efforts to interdict illegal firearms and remove them from our streets. The carnage inflicted through the use of such weapons is a notorious fact of which the court may take judicial notice.”

“I find that this court lacks jurisdiction to interfere with the intended appellant’s incarceration at BDOCS (Bahamas Department of Correctional Services) because there is nothing from the medical officer at BDOCS to show that she cannot be adequately treated at BDOCS.

“Further, during the sentencing phase, the magistrate took into account all of the evidence presented to him. As such, I do not find that the magistrate fell into error when he sentenced the intended appellant to twelve months at BDOCS,” Justice Isaacs added.

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