Tuesday August 4, 2003

Good Hope trio freed on arms charges

Magistrate upholds no-case submissions

The trio charged with unlawful possession of arms following their interception by the army at Good Hope on the East Coast of Demerara yesterday left the court free men after no-case submissions by their lawyers were upheld.

The laptop computer was programmed to track the location of cellular phone users and a list of names and cellular telephone numbers of wanted men as well as other persons were retrieved by intelligence personnel



Sean Belfield

Shaheed Khan

Haroon Yahya

Principal Magistrate Jerrick Stephney upheld no-case submissions made by the attorneys for Shaheed Khan, Haroon Yahya and policeman Sean Belfield, who were charged with possessing an array of arms.
Khan, Yahya and Belfield were detained on December 4th last year by an army patrol at the Good Hope Housing Scheme, where they were alleged to have been found with a large stockpile of arms and munitions.

M-16 Rife

According to the particulars of the charges against the men, they were allegedly found in possession of two M-16 rifles with 278 matching live rounds of 5.56 ammunition, and two 9mm pistols with 201 matching live rounds. Belfield, who is a constable attached to the Anti-Crime Task Force unit of the Guyana Police Force, was also separately charged with two summary offences for being in unlawful possession of a .40 Glock pistol and 10 matching rounds of ammunition.
Appearing for Khan was attorney Glen Hanoman, for Belfield, Vic Puran and for Yahya, Nigel Hughes.
Upon the completion of the State’s case, the defence team made no-case submissions to the magistrate, contending that there was no evidence to establish a prima facie case.
After considering the submissions of both the prosecution and the defence, Magistrate Stephney yesterday afternoon held that the evidence led by the state did not present him with the justification to call upon the men to lead a defence.
“...I therefore uphold the no-case submissions of the defence... I can only do what I feel is right according to the law...”
Noting the factors that he had considered in the formulation of his ruling, the magistrate first observed that there was
no evidence which proved that the men had had control of the vehicle where the weapons were allegedly uncovered. It was the State’s case that the men had had constructive control of the items in the vehicle, however, Stephney considered that no one had even said anything of the defendants’ proximity to the vehicle.

Bullet-proof vehicle

“I would have thought that would be the first thing they would have established, where the men were standing, in order for the prosecution to show that they had control. It did not come up in the arguments and as Mr Puran observed, that should have been the end of the case...”
He also pointed out that though marked weapons had been referred to the court, the law requires that marking must be done in the presence of the accused, which was not the case in this particular circumstance.
Lastly, he said given the fact that Belfield was a member of the Police Force at the time of the interception, arguments were never led to establish if he was off-duty at the time, adding “this was not pursued by the prosecution... I therefore cannot find reason to ask any of these men for a defence.”
As the magistrate delivered his ruling the three men stood sedately in the prisoner’s dock.
Hanoman, in his no-case submissions to the court, had contended that the lack of cogent evidence was sufficient to illustrate that the prosecution failed to make out a case.
Pointing out that it was established that the items were found in GHH 7539, Hanoman said that there was no real evidence before the court relating to the ownership of the vehicle, nor any direct evidence suggesting that the defendants were ever occupants of it. Even in the event that the court did find evidence to support a claim that any of the accused was in the vehicle, he argued that it was still to be proven whether any of the men had custody or control of the items together with knowledge of their existence.
Meanwhile, he also asserted that it was of fundamental importance that Belfield is and was at all material times a serving member of the Guyana Police Force. Belfield, he said, by virtue of his being a policeman, is allowed to be in possession of firearms and ammunition, without need for a licence, once requisite authority is granted by senior officers.
Following their detention on December 4th the three men were released by a High Court judge five days later on $0.5M bail each after police failed to charge them. They were subsequently charged on January 15 of this year and were again released on $0.5M bail each.