Strict Gun Laws In Belize:
Judges Have No Discretion But To Send Occupants To Jail
by Anita Nembhard-Flowers
Tues. Dec. 28, 2021
A young couple of Belize City was found in possession of a gun and an extended magazine loaded with 16 live rounds and no gun license hence why they were charged with two gun related offenses that landed the boyfriend behind bars for 2 years.
They are 23-year-old, Ryan Young Jr., a Sanitation Worker and a resident of Belize City along with his girlfriend, 20-year-old, Chelsey Shanice Lewis, a mother of a 2 year old child and a resident of Belize City.
The couple appeared before Senior Magistrate, Aretha Ford in Court #2 to answer to two gun related offenses of kept firearm without a gun license and kept ammunitions without being granted a gun license by the COMPOL.
Allegations are that on Sunday, December 26, 2021, which is celebrated as Boxing Day, the couple had in their possession, one black 9mm pistol with serial number along with a black extended magazine which contained, 16 rounds of 9 mm 5 Star brands live rounds of ammunitions.
In court, the couple was represented by attorney, ‘Norman Rodriguez’ where they both pleaded not guilty to the gun related charges and they were initially both remanded into custody at the Belize Central Prison.
That is when ‘Attorney Rodriguez’ made a submission asking Senior Magistrate ‘Aretha Ford’ to kindly grant special bail to defendant 1, ‘Chesley Lewis’ on the grounds that she is a young mother of a 2 year old child with whom she has a very close bound , she maintain her innocence saying she had no knowledge of the police findings at his home.
‘Attorney Rodriguez’ also added that Lewis is very much fearful of having to be confine in a prison cell and he asked the magistrate to use her discretion and grant bail to Lewis under those circumstances.
Prosecutor, Sgt. Kennard Clark submitted that the magistrate cannot use her discretion in this matter given, the law is the law and that it does not grant the Magistrate any discretion as specified in the revised act of the law in 2021.
And while he tried his best to get her bail, Senior Magistrate, Ford denied bail to both saying, she does not have the discretion to grant bail at this time and both were remanded into custody at the Belize Central Prison until February 28, 2022.
Attorney Rodriguez sprang immediately to begin the paper work for bail application on behalf of the couple. And while that bail application would have not materialized until the next 2 to 3 days, the earliest being Thursday, December 30, 2021, Young Jr., feeling the pressure of his girlfriend having to be remanded to jail with him, decided to change his not guilty plea to guilty without his attorney guidance and knowledge.
So at 2, the couple were escorted back into Court #2, this time, being unrepresented, Young Jr., asked to change his not guilty plea to guilty.
Senior Magistrate, Ford asked him if he was aware of the penalty and that it did not include a fine but a custodial sentence for the offenses and Young Jr , said he is aware and maintain a guilty plea despite the odds of going to jail being greater against him.
After accepting the facts as read out in court, Senior Magistrate Ford sentence Young Jr., to two years imprisonment for the firearm of which she ordered is to run consecutively with any other sentence and a one year prison term for the admonitions of which she ordered is to run concurrently with the first sentence hence Young Jr., will only be serving 2 years imprisonment instead of 3. Prosecutor in the case, Sgt. Kennard Clark withdrew the charges against ‘Chelsey Shanice Lewis’ and she was free to go.
On Sunday, December 26, 2021, at about 1:50 p.m., Police Officers attached to the GI3 Gang Unit visited the home of Ryan Young Jr., located at a ‘Gentle lane address in Belize City; a search was done for illegal firearms and ammunitions.
Police searched in the kitchen where on a shelf they saw a magazine among some groceries in the kitchen. Further search led to a 9 mm pistol along with 16 live rounds in the magazine. As a result, Young and Lewis the only two occupants of the house were detained and escorted to the Fabers Road police station and charged.