An 18-year-old man from Diego Martin, who was arrested with a vial of pepper spray during Carnival celebrations in Port-of-Spain on Monday, has been released on $60,000 bail.
Justin Ottley, of Edward Street in Diego Martin, was granted bail after pleading guilty to possession of the prohibited weapon before Magistrate Aden Stroude in the Port-of-Spain Magistrate’s Court, on Wednesday morning.
Stroude was initially willing to immediately sentence the teenager, but his lawyer Richard Clarke-Wills requested an adjournment to obtain a probation officer’s report to assist in determining the appropriate penalty for his client.
According to the evidence presented during the hearing, around 8 am, police officers were on patrol along Park Street when they stopped Ottley and a large group of friends based on instructions from the T&T Police Service (TTPS) Command Centre.
The officers allegedly found the pepper spray while searching Ottley’s pants pocket.
“Oh gosh officer, it is for protection,” Ottley reportedly said after the item was found.
Although Clarke-Wills requested the adjournment for the report, he claimed that Ottley did not know that the non-lethal weapon, which is permitted for personal protection in other countries, is illegal locally.
“Ignorance is no excuse,” Stroude responded.
While police prosecutor Sgt Azard Ali did not object to bail for the teenager, who works in an ice cream parlour, he suggested that his mother should not be allowed to stand as surety as there was no evidence that she could compel him to attend court.
“If they did then he may not have ended up in this situation,” he said.
Under the Firearms Act, a person convicted of possession of a prohibited weapon such as pepper spray faces a $15,000 fine and eight years imprisonment.
Police Commissioner Gary Griffith and his wife Nicole have repeatedly advocated for the legislation to be amended to allow citizens, especially women, to carry such non-lethal weapons.
Ottley is expected to reappear in court, next month.