KINGSTON, Jamaica, March 9, 2022 - Opposition Spokesman on National Security Peter Bunting, says he has given instructions to his attorneys to take note of media reports in relation to the Integrity Commission’s Special Report of Investigation into Allegations Concerning Acts of Impropriety, Irregularity and Corruption in the Issuance of Firearm User Licences to Persons of ‘Questionable Character’, as well as the Report itself, with a view to taking legal action if necessary.
In a statement, Mr. Bunting noted the report of certain media houses’ coverage of the Integrity Commission’s Special Report, as well as the Report itself, “listed a number of what appear to be serious irregularities at the Firearm Licensing Authority, almost all of which happened after my time as the responsible Minister,” Bunting said.
The contents of the Integrity Commission’s Report do not support the headlines and other statements in the media coverage which relate to me, and the media coverage is in my view defamatory.
I have therefore instructed my attorneys to examine the reports, and if they conclude that the coverage is defamatory, to bring legal proceedings against those media houses unless they fully retract their defamatory statements and issue a public apology.
The former minister pointed out that “in their coverage they have mentioned two appeals that happened during my term of office. This was two out of hundreds of cases that I would have reviewed during the four years I was the Minister of National Security.
He said “One case involved a person who had been charged ten years earlier with cocaine-related offences while they were a student in Florida, and whose record was subsequently expunged.
“It is important to note that when a criminal record is expunged, the law requires that that person must be treated as if the crime had not occurred. There are very few exceptions to that rule, and none of them applied in this case.
"The other case involved a person who had been accused of molesting his wife’s relative. This was told to an investigator, but a formal report was never made to the police.
"Separately, that person also had two charges of assault from the 90s. One assault case was dismissed by the Court, and a “No Order” was made by the Judge on the other case. In this case, therefore, the person had never been convicted of a crime.
"From my recollection, the Firearm Review Board had recommended that the licences be granted or restored, and as Minister I acted either in accordance with their recommendations, or more conservatively," Bunting Concluded.
In the meantime, former National Security Minister Robert Montague has also sought to distance himself from the Integrity Commission Report and suggested that a former deputy chairman of the FLA, Dennis Meadows, could face charges for his role in the granting of a firearms license to a relative.
“It is the DI‟s (director of investigations) opinion that the 2012 and 2016 FLA Boards acted ultra vires in its denial and subsequent approval of firearm user licence applications as the appeal of decisions of the FLA Board should be made to the Review Board, pursuant to Section 37 of the Firearm Act,” the report said.
“The DI concludes that the facilitation of an expedited process for applications submitted by Members of Parliament and/or other public officials or private citizens is highly irregular and is a corruption enabling conduit,” added the report.
In a summary of the questionable approval of firearm licences the commission said:
1) Firearm user licences were granted to individuals who were convicted for drug-related offences in at least 13 instances.
2) Firearm user licences were granted to individuals who were convicted for lottery scamming and/or fraudulent offences in at least four instances.
3. Firearm user licences were denied and subsequently granted to individuals who were convicted for violent crimes in at least seven instances.
4. Firearm user licences were denied and subsequently granted to individuals who were convicted for the offence of illegal possession of firearm in at least three instances.
5. Firearm user licences were denied and subsequently granted to individuals who were convicted for otherwise breaching the Firearms Act in at least one instance.
6. Firearm user licences were denied and subsequently granted to individuals who were convicted for other illegal activities in at least five instances.
7. Firearm user licences were denied and subsequently granted to individuals who the FLA investigator stated to be involved in drug related offences, in at least 10 instances.
8. Firearm user licences were denied and subsequently granted to individuals who the FLA Investigator stated were involved in lottery scamming and/or fraudulent offences, in at least 10 instances.
9. Firearm user licences were denied and subsequently granted to individuals who the FLA investigator stated were involved in violent crimes, in at least six instances.
10. Firearm user licences were denied and subsequently granted to at least two individuals who the FLA Investigator stated were arrested for the offence of illegal possession of firearm.
11. Firearm user licences were denied and subsequently granted to individuals who the FLA investigator stated were involved in other illegal activities, in at least 10 instances.
The commission noted that for security purposes it has withheld the names of all firearm user licensees and applicants that have been withheld and were classified by the director of investigation.
The commission further reported that six applicants whose firearm user licence applications were denied by the FLA Board were subsequently approved on appeal by Montague when he was in charge of the security ministry from February 2016 to February 2018.
The report said Bunting allowed the appeal of two people of questionable character but denied that he was pressured by fellow Members of Parliament to speed up applications for gun licences for individuals.