A man who failed to renew his firearm licence in time, and was thus in illegal possession of an unlicensed firearm for some six months, was fined R10 000 or two years in prison on Monday.
Derick Johnson appeared in the Parow Regional Court before magistrate Constance Nziweni.
The magistrate agreed with prosecutor Barry van der Berg that the case did not justify a jail sentence without the option of a fine, as this was more of a technical offence.
Johnson told the court the licence had expired in June last year and he was in fact in the process of renewing it when he was arrested on December 29 last year.
He told the court: “I was still in the process of getting the licence sorted out.”
The prosecutor added that he would have called for a prison sentence without a fine, had Johnson in fact been in possession of the unlicensed firearm for illegal purposes.
Blending justice with mercy, the magistrate suspended half the fine for five years, and allowed Johnson to pay the remaining R5 000 in two instalments – R2 000 immediately and the remaining R3 000 at the end of April.
However, to bring the gravity of the offence home to him, she warned Johnson he would be in serious trouble if he failed to pay the R5 000, or even part of it, by the end of April.
She warned him: “If you fail to pay, you will be re-arrested and brought before this court again, and I will send you to prison.”
She said the court did not know why he had failed to renew the licence on time – whether it was due to laziness, or ignorance.
She said it was crucial to the criminal justice system that the requirements for the renewal of firearm licences be complied with to the letter.
She said justice required the courts to temper punishment with a measure of mercy, as she had done by suspending half of Johnson’s fine and prison sentence, but that she would be failing in her duty if the court did not send out an appropriate message to communities.
The message was that offenders caught in illegal possession of unlicensed firearms, for criminal purposes, could expect heavy jail sentences, she added.
– African News Agency