Chief Magistrate’s sentence raises more questions

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More questions are being raised about the legality of a sentence imposed on a young man who pleaded guilty to possession of a gun and two bullets. The latest query is being made by an attorney who is examining the alternative to a prison sentence imposed by Chief Magistrate Joanne Walsh on the convict Makieva Otto of Briggins, on Thursday.
Otto was convicted for possession of a modified flare gun and two 9mm rounds of ammunition. He pleaded guilty to both charges and was fined $3,000 for firearm possession, and $2,500 for ammunition possession, or alternatively, one year in jail if he failed to pay the fines the same day.
However, the lawyer, who does not want to be named at this stage, said that even if the magistrate was unaware that the fines provision in the Firearms Act had been repealed and was relying on the old law, the sentence would still have been invalid.
The attorney explained that the Magistrates Code of Procedure Amendment Act of 2014 sets the limits on how long a person can be jailed for, if that person fails to pay a fine. Section 116 of the law states that if the person is fined between $1,500 and $5,000, but fails to pay the fine, the individual should not be jailed for more than four months.
The lawyer, who works with the government, says even if the court had the power to issue a fine and was combining the fines into one sum, the law had set a limit of imprisonment of no more than six months where the fine is more than $5,000.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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