THE High Court in Labasa has found a Magistrates Court's proceedings a nullity, quashed the sentencing and set aside the guilty plea of Thomas Winter who was charged with possession of arms and ammunition between May 2008 and May 2011 in Savusavu.
Yesterday High Court judge Justice Daniel Goundar also ruled there should be no order for a retrial and Mr Winter's bow and arrow be returned to him.
"According to the court record, the learned magistrate made no enquiry about the nature of the bow and arrow found in Winter's possession," Justice Goundar said.
"The guilty plea was accepted having no regard as to whether the bow was designed to discharge arrow, dangerous to the public. The proper course was to reject the guilty plea, grant leave to amend the charge and to proceed with the trial. Given my finding that the charge and the facts did not disclose an offence under Section 4 (Arms and Ammunition Act), the guilty plea and the fine cannot stand.
"The proceedings in the Magistrates Court were a nullity."
Justice Goundar said neither the charge nor the facts tendered in support of the charge, described the bow nor arrow was found in Mr Winter's possession.
He said the charge and the facts should have disclosed that the bow was designed to discharge arrows. Justice Goundar said the charge and facts failed to state this essential element of the offence under Section 4.
"The charge was indeed defective and the facts failed to cure the defect."
Section 4 states: "No person shall possess, use or carry any arm or ammunition except under a licence in respect of each arm and such ammunition so possessed, used or carried and in accordance with the prescribed conditions of such licence."