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Appeal court told weapons parts conviction was unfair

James Rumley leaves the Supreme Court after being found guilty of importation of firearm components last November (File photograph)

A man jailed for a plot to smuggle gun parts into Bermuda has argued his conviction should be quashed because his trial was unfair.

James Rumley, 40 was found guilty last year of three counts of importation of firearm components by a unanimous verdict in connection to a series of packages sent to the island from Pittsburgh in 2019.

He was sentenced to serve 14 years for each of the three offences, but Saul Froomkin, counsel for Rumley, told the Court of Appeal yesterday the charges should have been tried separately as they occurred months apart.

The first package was sent in June 2019, and the latter packages were mailed in October that year.

Mr Froomkin said that the charges could be joined if they were a “series” of offences, but the offences were separate enough that they should have been distanced.

He added the evidence in the first case was not “cross admissible” in the later cases and would only prejudice the jury against Rumley.

Mr Froomkin said: “Except for similar facts, there was nothing in count one that could prove count two. Each count had to be looked at separately.”

He highlighted that Acting Puisne Judge Juan Wolffe had told the jury to consider each charge separately but also invited the jury to note how similar the events were.

Mr Froomkin said that firearm parts contained in the three packages could have made two guns, but the parts could only be assembled by someone with the right mechanical equipment and firearms knowledge.

He added that the judge erred in his directions to the jury about how they should consider whether Rumley knew firearm parts were inside the packages.

Archibald Warner, who represented Rumley at his Supreme Court trial, raised concerns about the lack of direction to the jury about the burden of proof when it came to knowledge, but the judge still fell short when he gave further directions.

Mr Froomkin told the appeal court: “Nowhere does His Lordship advise the jury as to the standard of proof to be borne by the appellant.”

Cindy Clarke, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said the facts in the three offences were connected enough for a jury to hear them together.

She said that the first and third packages were sent to Bermuda from the same Pittsburgh FedEx centre.

Ms Clarke added the second package, which was sent from another FedEx office in the city, and the third were sent one day apart.

She said: “He was trying to disguise the sender by going to different FedEx facilities. That is the cross-admissibility point that we submitted was relevant.”

Ms Clarke accepted that the directions given by the judge about how the jury should consider knowledge were “not as full as they could have been” but that the omissions were not fatal to the conviction.

She said: “It’s an ingredient that the Crown will have to prove, his knowledge. We still have to prove that he was the cause of the item being brought in.

“While it is accepted that the trial judge did not get the direction right about the evidential burden of proof and what the defendant has to prove and to what standard he has to prove, what this trial judge did consistently is say he didn’t have to prove anything at all.

“I suspect the reason the trial judge was doing that was because it’s not a defence, but an element for the Crown to prove.”

Ms Clarke added the evidence against Rumley was “overwhelming” and that a guilty verdict was the only reasonable one.

The jury heard during Rumley’s trial last year that Customs officers discovered gun parts hidden in three packages sent from Pittsburgh to Bermuda in 2019.

None of the packages listed Rumley as the sender, but he was seen on CCTV at the FedEx offices when all three were sent.

One of the packages was addressed to someone Rumley went to school with, another to the mother of Rumley’s child and the third to Rumley’s home address.

Rumley admitted that he had been involved in the postage of all three packages, but denied knowledge that they contained weapons parts.

He told the court he was hired through an online delivery service to take the first package – and a customer – to FedEx and had no other connection to it.

Rumley said he mailed the second two packages days before he flew back to Bermuda because his luggage was full.

But he insisted he had no idea how the gun parts got inside the parcels.

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