The Bill, which had its first reading on March 4, 2021, sought to amend section 2 of the Principal Act, by widening the definition of the word explosives, so that it includes explosive materials which may be used in firearms as ammunition, including articles consisting of a cartridge case, blank cartridges or training cartridges.
“Given that what has been occurring in this territory as it relates to gun crime, this government, we have bemoaned the fact that gun crimes have no place in our community,” he said during the Ninth Sitting of the Third Session of the Fourth House of Assembly of the Virgin Islands held at the Save the Seed Energy Centre in Duff’s Bottom on May 13, 2021.
Hon Rymer continued, “Mr Speaker, gun crime is like fungus, that eats away at the very fabric of us as human beings. Within our territory we are embedded in a community deeply rooted in religion, family, hardships, hard work and, Mr Speaker, gun crime has no place in our community so we will extend every effort to strengthen the legislation to widen the definition of the word explosives.”
He said through the widening of the definition, persons convicted of gun crimes will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and not released because of technicalities resulting from the definition in the legislation, not being wide enough to cover explosive materials used in firearms.
The Minister said that in a 2020 case, the Court of Appeal ruled that it was a mistake of law for the magistrate to have accepted a guilty plea on the basis that ammunition as defined by the Firearm Ordinance Cap. 126, was not included in the definition of explosives under the Explosive Ordinance Cap. 124.
“There is no criminal charge under the Firearms Act, Chapter 126, as amended for the possession of ammunition and explosives,” he said and that as a result of the judgment, it prevented persons from being charged by the police and being brought before the court by the DPP, to be prosecuted for the possession of ammunition and explosives.
He said in many cases, police officers would find explosives and ammunition and be unable to lay charges as a result of the Court of Appeal judgment.
Hon Rymer said law enforcement will now get legislative backing through the Explosive Amendment Act 2021, to arrest persons found in possession of explosives and allow the DPP to prosecute for the unlawful possession of explosives such as those used in firearms.
The Bill was debated and passed without amendments in the HoA on May 13, 2021.