House: warning to soldiers over weapons
Soldiers who break rules on decommissioned weapons will be held accountable, the Minister of National Security has vowed.
Wayne Caines told MPs that the Royal Bermuda Regiment behaved with “honour and integrity” and tackled matters “head on”.
He was speaking after questions from Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the shadow finance and health minister, on the RBR during a Budget debate on the Ministry of National Security this week.
It was understood yesterday that Lieutenant-Colonel David Curley, the RBR's outgoing commanding officer, has been interviewed by police several times in connection with an ongoing investigation into how a prominent lawyer acquired decommissioned weapons.
Ms Gordon-Pamplin, a One Bermuda Alliance MP, asked on Wednesday: “What happens to retired weapons in the service? “I think it's important to find out because I think that we've had information fairly recently in respect of weapons being made available, even though they may not have been operative weapons, and people, individuals being able to come into possession of such weapons in their own private environment.”
She added: “We may have weapons that are deemed to be put out of commission, some of them with the installation of an extra pin or with the installation of something else could actually be re-engaged as a dangerous and effective weapon.”
Ms Gordon-Pamplin said: “We want to make sure that the security of our public is not compromised when these so-called weapons have been retired.”
Mr Caines replied: “There is a robust process for the disposal and destruction of retired weapons.”
He added: “Clearly this has been asked for a specific reason and we can deal with that head on.
“There are specific allegations that have been made with reference to some weapons and the Bermuda Regiment with a senior member of personnel.
“This matter is still under police investigation and once this matter has been dealt with, this matter will be dealt with in the public domain.
“There is nothing that the Bermuda Regiment will not deal with head on.
“This is an organisation that deals with honour and integrity and everyone that wears that uniform, from a private soldier right up to a Lieutenant-Colonel, will be held to account for their actions.
“The Bermuda Regiment has a plan and a procedure for dealing with weapons from the time you have one in your hand ... to the day that weapon is decommissioned.”
Ms Gordon-Pamplin asked what steps were taken to make sure that decommissioned weapons were secured.
Mr Caines replied: “I believe there are certain matters of national security and I believe this is one of them.
“I would feel safe to say that there is an outline plan that the Bermuda Regiment has for securing weapons.”
He explained that the chief armourer was responsible for weapons.
Mr Caines added: “If anyone goes in disharmony or not in accordance with that plan, they should be held in account.
“There is an investigation that is ongoing. When that investigation is made complete, we will be notified and decisions will be made accordingly.”
No names of individuals were mentioned by the MPs.
The Royal Gazette reported earlier that Colonel Curley has been on leave from the RBR since last October.
An article in January said that he was understood to be linked to a police investigation into how Justin Williams, a well-known lawyer, acquired weapons from the regiment.
Mr Williams's home in Fairylands, Pembroke, was raided by police in November last year.
The Bermuda Police Service appealed the following month for the lawyer to return from the US “for interview in regards to an ongoing criminal investigation”.
Mr Williams “categorically” denied any wrongdoing at the start of this year and branded the police investigation “an absurd witch-hunt”.
He explained that he had been living in the US to seek medical treatment and professional development,
Mr Williams later said that he received two deactivated weapons from Warwick Camp for display purposes and that he did not pay for them.
Sources indicated yesterday that the BPS was close to interviewing the lawyer in the US.
Colonel Curley will be replaced as Commanding Officer by Major Ben Beasley this month.
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