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Statement from Opposition Leader on Gun Law Amendment

The following is a statement from Opposition Leader Hon. Edwin Astwood on the amendment to the Firearms Law.

June 14, 2024 - The House of Assembly today passed a pivotal amendment to the Firearms(Amendment) Bill 2024, introducing a significant clarification regarding judicial discretion in sentencing for firearms-related offenses.

The amendment specifies that courts now have the discretion, in exceptional circumstances, to impose either a custodial sentence, a fine, or both, rather than mandating both a custodial sentence and a fine in every case.

The amendment was introduced to address concerns about the rigidity of the previous sentencing framework, which mandated both imprisonment and financial penalties for all firearms offenses, regardless of the specific context or severity.

This often resulted in disproportionately harsh sentences that did not always fit the nature of the crime or the circumstances of the offender. Key Points of the Amendment: - Judicial Discretion: Judges can now consider the unique aspects of each case and determine the most appropriate sentence, whether it be a custodial sentence, a fine, or a combination of both. - Exceptional Circumstances: This discretion is particularly aimed at cases where exceptional circumstances warrant a departure from the standard sentencing requirements. -Balanced Justice:

The amendment ensures a more balanced approach to justice, allowing for fairer and more individualized sentencing that better reflects the nuances of each case. I want to emphasize the importance of this amendment in ensuring that the judiciary can administer justice more equitably. This legislative change is a critical step in ensuring our legal system is both just and flexible.

It acknowledges that not all cases are alike and that our judges must have the ability to consider all factors and impose sentences that are truly just and appropriate.

As I stated in my position last month, “We the PDM believe it is necessary to immediately review, and potentially amend the existing firearms laws, gaining public consultation and thereby creating a more nuanced and flexible legal framework. While we must uphold the rule of law, we believe that our legal system must be flexible enough to consider extenuating circumstances and to differentiate between individuals who pose a genuine threat and those who may have no criminal intent and unknowingly violate the law.”

As Leader of the Opposition, I had fully agreed to have this Amendment Bill go through all three readings and on to passage in the sitting today. The Opposition Appointed Member and I believe it will lead to fairer outcomes and better serve the principles of justice



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