The father of five and 22-year law enforcement veteran can be thankful for the legal generosity of the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the support of a wide variety of Belizeans who ringed the No. 1 Magistrate’s Court and loudly chanted for the Corporal to be set free. Inside the courtroom, Chief Magistrate Ann-Marie Smith heard submissions in mitigation from Police Commissioner Allen Whylie, retired minister of the Church of the Nazarene Reverend Doctor Oliver Ottley, and chairman of the Belize Bank and Nazarene Church parishioner Lyndon Guiseppi.
Each testified to the worth and character of Peck, praising him as a family man, a dedicated and effective policeman in Special Branch and other Police divisions and a man of integrity who could be trusted and never stepped out of line until his home was raided in January of 2012.
But the turning point of the case came after a short adjournment, after Peck’s attorney Senior Counsel Simeon Sampson tried and failed to get the Chief Magistrate to suspend the sentence stipulated under the Firearms (Amendment) Act pending appeal. He tells us what happened next.
“In the final analysis, with the assistance of the DPP, we were shown a Section of the law in Summary Jurisdiction Procedure Act where, in a situation like this, the Act under which Peck was found guilty, appears as if touhgh the magistrate had no discretion to impose a fine, but imprisonment. But with the kind assistance of the DPP, they found a Section of the Summary Jurisdiction Procedure Act. Even though it appeared that she had no discretion to impose a fine, but that she had to imprison the man mandatorily, this Section of the law makes it permissible to impose a fine for the man instead of imprisonment”.
With that, Peck was free to go after paying his fines, a total of $600, two hundred on each count. We reproduce for viewers below the text of Section 54 of the Summary Jurisdiction (Procedure) Act, which is Chapter 99 of the Laws of Belize.
“[Where] a person is convicted of any summary conviction offence for which the court, under any Act or other enactment for the time being in force, has authority to impose imprisonment and has not authority to impose a fine, the court, notwithstanding the provisions of any such Act or other enactment, may, if it thinks that the justice of the case will be better met by a fine than by imprisonment, impose on the offender a fine not exceeding two hundred and fifty dollars, and not being of such amount as will, under the provisions of this Act, subject the offender in default of payment of the fine to any greater term of imprisonment than that to which he is liable under the Act or other enactment authorizing the imprisonment as aforesaid.”
We note that this statute, to our knowledge, is rarely used, and some believe a precedent may be set by its use here. But whatever the reason, Corporal Peck is free, and mobbed by his supporters, he offered these words to us this afternoon.
Reporter: “How is evreything with you and your family? Do you plan to continue as a police officer given the fact?”
Corporal Gino Peck: “I cannot say that, I am not sure at this time, but all I need to do is group with my family and see where it goes from there”.
To his supporters, Peck says he is grateful.
Reporter: “Are you satisfied that the people you serve, backed you today?
Corporal Gino Peck: “Absolutely. When you do the right thing, it always serves you better”.
Reporter: “Gino, you have been through this for two years. Did you expect to have this magnanimous support from the public, and how do you feel to see such support?
Corporal Gino Peck: “Mein, it touched my heart, but like I said When you do the right thing, it always succeed”.
His wife, who has stood by his side throughout the entire ordeal, expressed her gratitude to the public and to God.
Public Cheering: “God is good…all the time!”
Ms. Loretta Peck: “I just thank everyone for the support, to the Police Department, the Association . Since the incident happened, I wasn’t alone, the whole nation was standing with me and I thank God for the results, for everyone who was here. Thanks everyone!”
The interview with Peck and his wife, is courtesy our colleagues at 7 News. After speaking with reporters, the two were driven away in separate vehicles by their supporters. Police Commissioner Whylie spoke on the future for Peck, whom he defended in court.
Attorney Sampson indicated the matter will be appealed and added that a constitutional motion arguing against the mandatory sentences stipulated in the Firearms (Amendment) Act will be filed in due course, which was his reason for arguing for the suspended sentence.