Detective cleared in gun case

| 04/11/2015 | 36 Comments
Owen Roberts International Airport

Owen Roberts International Airport

(CNS): The RCIPS detective who took a handgun and ammunition to the airport has been cleared of any wrongdoing by both the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) and the internal police Professional Standards Unit. The RCIPS confirmed that the investigation into the circumstances surrounding how Lauriston Burton came to have the weapon and magazines in his hand luggage at Owen Roberts Airport last year was concluded and no criminal action was warranted.

Burton, who is a licensed firearm owner, had the gun with him as he had intended to drop the weapon at the police station in George Town before he took a trip to Jamaica last October. However, he reportedly forgot the gun was in his bag. Explaining the circumstances, an RCIPS spokesperson said that when the pistol and magazines were found in his luggage as he attempted to pass through the security checkpoint, he immediately acknowledged ownership of gun and explained his oversight.

“As a result of this incident, an investigation was opened as to whether there had been breaches of the criminal code,” the RCIPS said in a statement responding to enquiries.

“Just as with any other criminal matter, the case was investigated and sent to the ODPP for a legal determination.  A full ruling was provided, and the ODPP returned the file to the RCIPS, indicating that no criminal action was warranted or authorized.  Following this the matter was referred to the Professional Standards Unit of the RCIPS,” the police representative stated, adding that the unit then undertook its own internal investigation.

It rendered advice and counselling to Burton over proper firearm management and a report was passed to the Firearm Registry Department to ensure no further instances of this nature occur, police officials said.

The case drew considerable criticism from the public and politicians because Burton did not appear to face the same consequences as other people in similar circumstances, raising the question of double standards. A number of visitors from America that are licensed firearms holders at home who have forgotten about stray ammunition in their bags have faced arrest and hefty fines in Summary Court.

Answers needed in cop gun case

But police said there was an “important distinction” between Burton’s case and those of foreign nationals who had arrived with bullets.

The RCIPS stated, “Mr Burton has a valid license in the Cayman Islands to carry a firearm. We would also like to point out that Mr Burton is an officer with an exemplary service record, and that he was honest and forthcoming with those investigating the case. It is our hope that this clarification ends questions or speculation about his service, as in our view it is an isolated matter, and Mr Burton continues to do excellent work for the community in his capacity as a Detective Inspector with the Family Support Unit.”

At the time of the incident Burton’s weapon was confiscated but he was allowed to continue his journey. When he returned, he remained in his post throughout the investigation.

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Comments (36)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Good thing he never reached jamaica lol ten years up a big yad

  2. Anonymous says:

    Usually a .32 caliber has no bearing on the rifling of the 7.62 mm which is what the European armies are accustomed to using. On the other hand, one could argue that the reverse rifling of the magnum .45 would inversely affect its ability to “swivel in the barrel” as the so-called experts like to allude to.

    As far as I am concerned, as long as the cordite was not Eastern European, I would say there is nothing to worry about.

    Where are these so-called experts in our local firearms department. Sheesh!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Lauriston Burton is one of the most honest and hard working police officers in the RCIPS. Take it for an Ex-Senior police officer who knows him very well. This man works endless hours day and night to keep the Cayman Islands safe. I am convinced that if the RCIPS had 15 – 20 more police officers of his calibre, we probably wouldn’t have the crime we are now experiencing. Ask any family member or friend in the RCIPS – and they will tell you that he is a 100% true crime fighter.

    I’m not surprised that he accidentally forgot his licensed firearm in his personal carry on luggage; due to the intense pressure he and other high energy police officers face on a daily basis.

    Think for a minute………. how many times have you forgot your keys in your car, office or at home, your cell phone, forgot to pick up the kid’s at school or football practice, forgot to pay your light bill or telephone bill, forgot your husband or wife wedding anniversary, forgot to pick up that item or piece of grocery at the supermarket that your husband/wife thoroughly reminded you to buy and the list goes on and on.

    Police officers are human beings and yes they do sometimes forget some/all of the things that are mentioned above. However, unlike the average citizen who does not own a licensed firearm, a police officer of Mr. Burton calibre; always carries his firearm close to his person and never leaves it behind……….. like most law abiding citizens who leaves their keys and cell phones all over the darn place.

    I accept that Mr. Burton made an honest mistake (acceptable in law in non-strict liability offenses) and I’m sure he will never repeat this error in life again. A good police officer always travels very close with his equipment and at the ready. After all, they are considered to be on duty 24 hours a day.

    If he had forgot his licensed firearm at home (not secured) then I would hold him to task if it was stolen or got into the wrong hands. However, accidentally forgetting it in his personal carry on luggage, I do not hold this against him at all. In my opinion, the DPP and the investigators in the internal investigation, made a sound and fair decision, based on all the relevant facts and other mitigating circumstances.

    • Fred the Piemaker says:

      There are two fundamental problems with your perspective.

      First, how does his hard work or inherent honesty make him any different to the civilians who find themselves in the same position through an oversight – yet you want to draw a distinction in his treatment simply because he is a police officer. Yes, we all routinely forget things – but when you get a firearms licence you accept severe limitations on its use and carriage. The firearm should always be secure unless its in use, or in transit to and from a legitimate place of use. This is not the US where you get to walk around strapped just on the off chance.

      Second, is the reference to his “always carries his firearm close to his person and never leaves it behind’. Now my understanding was that this was his personal weapon, not an issue firearm, and this man is not a uniform support group officer who is routinely armed for duty. If that is right on what basis does a duty police officer always carry a firearm if he is not doing so in the course of his duty? And if it was an issue firearm, why did he have it on issue when he was about to fly to Jamaica, and why wasn’t it loaded? I was in the military for many years, was used to routinely going armed when on duty, and I cannot conceive of a basis when – absent being on operational duty would be carrying a firearm that I could then inadvertently forget I was in possession of.

      I am not sure which I find more disturbing, the idea that non firearms officers are routinely carrying personal weapons, or an issue weapon being carried by someone not on duty, or your apparent view that somehow police officers should be beyond the same laws and regulations that apply to civilians simply because they are police officers and are hard working.

      • Anonymous says:

        It doesn’t make him any different. Has there ever been a member of the public carrying a firearm properly licensed in the Cayman Islands who has been prosecuted for being in possession of the firearm?

      • Anonymous says:

        Amen, Piemaker, at 9:14 am. Your analysis makes perfect sense. Too bad those assessing this incident obviously do not have your analytical skills.

        And why is he leaving a personal gun at his workplace? That doesn’t sound right to me — even if it is a law enforcement establishment. Surely he must have safe storage established for this gun, whether on or off island. Remember this is not a workplace issued gun.

    • Anonymous says:

      So packing his gun in his carry on is an example of his “travel(ling) very close with his equipment and at the ready”? As is required of a “good police officer”?

      By your definition, he is decidedly not a “good policeman.” He “forgot” he even had his gun!

    • Rorschach says:

      Given your atrocious spelling and grammar, i think its a good thing to say that you are an EX police SENIOR officer. If this is the caliber and education standards of our senior leadership then its no wonder the RCIPS has become such a mickey mouse outfit. Apologies to Mickey Mouse. There is no amount of platitudes and praise the can excuse what took place here. This is another case of their being two standards. One for the general public and one for the police. Plain and simple, regardless of whether this constituted a criminal offense, this officer should lose his PRIVILEGE to own a personal firearm. Others have lost it for far less egregious “mistakes”..

  4. Anonymous says:

    “Forgot” that he had a gun and ammo?

    Cops, in this case, should be held to a higher standard because they should know better.

    Forget the “legalize” in this case and throw the book at him and the bureaucracy that protects him.

    They all should know better and that hand guns are serious stuff. If you own a hand gun, you cannot not know where the hand gun is and claim to be a “responsible” gun owner.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree that there should be a consistency of application of the law, but surely the underlying problem is in the bizarre interpretation in our own draconian firearms laws to include rounds (bullets) as firearms. As background, in Jamaica in the 70’s, Michael Manley’s Government passed a law making the possession of empty rounds as an offence with a penalty of “Indefinite Detention” (read Life Imprisonment). History tells how effective that was in decreasing crimes of gun violence.

      To be clear on my position, I think this officer should have been charged, reprimanded, and discharged (by the courts), as should the inadvertent bullet carrying, legally gun owning (in their home jurisdictions) visitors. Our visitors should not be judged more harshly for a harmless loose round, of no practical threat, than a trained firearms officer who attempts to take a loaded firearm on the aircraft.

      One set of rules for cops, another for our visitors just does not sit right with me.


    • Anonymous says:

      A police officer with this degree of “absent-mindedness”, which is essentially what he is claiming, is worrying. Are we as a population safe with officers like him wondering around?

      And his packing his gun and ammunition in his carry on does not make sense. It was at best a stupid thing to do.

      In any case, does he not have an established safe carrying case/bag for his gun?

      Sorry, but this escapade is a little hard to swallow. Had he hoped to slip through security without being checked — given he is a police officer and known to the security?

    • Anonymous says:

      If I were his bosses at the RCIPS I would keep a close eye on this officer. Carelessness at best.

  5. Anonymous says:

    The explanation does not pass the BS test. If he did forget he had a gun he is unfit to have a licence. Either way this whitewash stinks.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t know why everyone has an issue with the story, There was no realistic expectation that a gun and ammo would go through security unchallenged, at least in Cayman, so that leaves us with 2 options, a) he meant to do it to get caught or b) he didn’t mean to do it.

  6. Fred the Piemaker says:

    How is there an “important distinction”? He was a registered firearms holder, who inadvertently tried to carry a weapon (or in their case ammunition) through airport security. So were they. And I am sure they were equally honest and forthcoming when detected. Didn’t stop them getting a whopping fine, but he skates. Seems to me the real distinction is the second point they make – that he is a member of the local police force and they are not, pure and simple. And that is a problem. Arguably the expectation on standards should be higher, not less.

    • Anonymous says:

      Idiot, he has a license issued in this jurisdiction, they didn’t. The were charged with possession of an unlicensed firearm, he has a license, how could they charge him for not having a license when he does?

    • Anonymous says:

      Well that is glossing over a pretty big distinction isn’t it? Like the country they are licensed to posses a firearm in? In the case of someone caught with a firearm or ammunition who isn’t licensed to do so in the Cayman Islands is obviously breaking the law. Someone who is licensed to do so in the Cayman Islands…. probably not.

      It can be fair though. The firearms law does have provisions where when you enter the country you can declare the firearms and leave them with customs until you depart the country. However, once you are through customs and are in possession of a firearm without a valid license to do so….. well you are breaking the law.

      What should the charge be in your opinion for the person in this case? Obviously cannot be for possession since he is allowed to be in possession. I guess if you really wanted to get him in trouble you could maybe try some charge related to unlicensed export of a firearm? I’m not sure on those laws, but I suppose if you REALLY want to try to get someone in trouble maybe you could try that. But regardless very different than a person clearly breaking the law on possessing a firearm when not licensed to do so.

      • Fred the Piemaker says:

        To the posters who raise the point that the US visitors were not licensed in Cayman, and this chap was, your argument is effectively that although none of these people were apparently carrying the items deliberately, the US visitors committed an offence because they were not detected by airport security until they passed into a country that they were not licenced in, whereas this chap was fine because he was (although you would presumably accept that he should have been arrested if he arrived in Jamaica). That may be correct as a point of strict law, but as to making comparisons of fault…However all of that is to miss the point that that the law being broken has NOTHING to do with whether you are licenced or not – the carriage of the firearm into the restricted area is the offence in question. His intention merely goes to exculpation. And you have to ask yourself if the outcome would have been different had he been a civilian with a Cayman licence. Given that apparently no action has been taken on his failure to properly secure a firearm, also a clear violation in Cayman irrespective of whether he was wandering around Fosters or walking into Owen Roberts, one has to wonder.

        • Anonymous says:

          Please state the exact law he broke that the DPP could have charged him for.
          He did something absent-minded / stupid, but last I checked that on its own isn’t illegal. If it was, there wouldn’t be anyone that’s not guilty of breaking that law.

          • Anonymous says:

            Possession of a firearm other than in accordance with the terms of a Firearms User’s Licence contrary to s.15(1) and (5) of the Firearms Law (2008 Revision).

            His licence would not have allowed him to have the gun in his possession in those circumstances. Being absent-minded/stupid is NOT a defence in law to that charge.

        • Anonymous says:

          “the carriage of the firearm into the restricted area is the offence in question”

          Where is that law? It certainly isn’t part of the firearms law. Is that a make believe law you just passed in your own mind because you really want someone to get in trouble for something that isn’t illegal?

          Here is a link to a previous example of a visitor being charged. You’ll notice “visitor was charged for illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition”. You see police have to use real laws on the books when they charge someone. Not make believe ones by some poster on the internet.

          • Fred the piemaker says:

            I see. You think I just made it up. And presumably , Owen Roberts has no legal basis for those signs at security telling you you cannot take a firearm in? Any make believe here is entirely in your own mind. The made up law is the Aviation Security Act s4, punishable on summary conviction by fine or up to the months in jail, and on indictment by up to 5 years in jail. Happy now?

            • Anonymous says:

              “Owen Roberts has no legal basis for those signs at security telling you you cannot take a firearm in”

              A restaurant can put up a sign saying “no shoes no shirt no service”. That doesn’t make it a crime to try to enter without a shoe.

              The Aviation Security Act section 4 only makes it a crime if the person doesn’t have legal authority or a reasonable excuse. Seems he has a pretty reasonable excuse doesn’t it?

              Anyway, I thought you were all about treating him the same as visitors? Why do you now want him charged under an entirely separate statute? Wouldn’t that be treating them differently?

      • Diogenes says:

        See 0944’s post. Plus he attempted to carry it into a secured area. Neither is allowed in Cayman, irrespective of whether you have a licence. No one is saying he deliberately intended the latter, but then intention didn’t save the tourists from a fine, and it certainly shouldn’t prevent the revocation of his licence.

    • Anonymous says:

      Oh my are you serious? The distinction is that the officer has a license to carry a firearm in this country, the visitors didn’t….

  7. Anonymous says:

    How much was that gun and ammo worth on the black market in Jamaica?. So are we to believe a member of the public with a gun licence in the same situation would also get off scot free?.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’ll give you a clue, it’s a hell of a lot less than here! Where do you think the illegal guns in Cayman come from? Makes total sense, apply for a Federal export licence from the US, pay the shipping fees, pay the licence fee here, register the gun, then smuggle it out, fully assembled in carry-on that’s always x-rayed, yep no holes in that theory.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I hope the same reciprocity will be netted out to all Caymanians. Was his gun one of those lost and found ones? Was it registered with the Firearms Registry, or only an misterious find of one of those missing ones. If it was registered, was it assigned to him on sign out? Need answers.

  9. Fred the Piemaker says:

    Can we can assume that Mr Burton’s firearms licence has been withdrawn given his failure to properly secure the weapon, then? I am not sure what his exemplary service record has to do with his breach of basic regulations on firearm security, or for that matter his honesty in acknowledging his ownership and oversight (fairly redundant frankly given someone else found the thing in his bag – what was he going to say, its not mine?). Or are we going to allow any other firearms holder to have a mulligan on failing to secure their hand gun when they are first caught not having properly secured it when not in use or en route to and from the range?

  10. Anonymous says:

    This is very concerning. There certainly seems to be enough in this to put it to a jury.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Sounds right to me.

  12. Anonymous says:

    One can merely wonder why he wanted a gun in Jamaica. One cannot be a cop with a hand gun license and overlook the fact that you are carrying.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Dear DPP,

    Since when did “I forgot” become a defence to charges of possession of a weapon unlawfully (as this clearly was, being outside the terms of his licence)?

    Total joke.

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