Daniel Sebastian Ujhelly, an Argentine lawyer who had come to the Falkland Islands to take part in the Stanley Marathon was fined £650 in the Summary Court on Friday and ordered to pay £150 prosecution costs, after having pleaded guilty to an offence under the Fire Arms and Ammunition Ordinance 1987, reports this week's edition of the Penguin News.
The Justices, Messrs Derek Clarke, Anton Livermore and Paul Freer (presiding,) were told that on Saturday March 30 at Mount Pleasant Airport, what appeared to be a live ammunition round was detected by x-ray in baggage checked in by Mr Ujhelly who intended to take the LATAM flight to Punta Arenas. A later examination of his baggage, in the presence of Mr Ujhelly, resulted in the discovery of what a qualified police officer was able to identify as a live 7mm round.
Prosecuting counsel, Mr Stuart Walker, said that Mr, Ujhelly, had admitted when interviewed that he had found the ammunition on Mount Longdon and had taken it as a souvenir. He had not declared possession of the round, Mr Walker reminded the court, despite the ample warnings about prohibited items on display at the air terminal.
Had the ammunition not been seized it would have been loaded onto a commercial aircraft and would have constituted a serious breach of airport security.
Speaking through an interpreter, Mr. Ujhelly apologized to the court, saying that he was not a criminal and had come to the Falklands to participate in the marathon.
On Tuesday March 26, Mr. Ujhelly had taken advantage of what he described as “a unique opportunity” to go on a battlefield tour. On Mount Longdon he had come across some pieces of ammunition and had been unable to resist the temptation to pick one up and take it as a souvenir. Mr. Ujhelly said that the round was not the kind of souvenir which one might buy in a shop and he had seen it, not as ammunition, but as “a piece of history.”
By video link, Head of Court, Mr. James Brooks, advised that while in Britain a similar offence might merit a custodial sentence of up to five years, there was no such guidance in the Falklands, where a maximum admissible sentence would be three months.
He considered that the Bench should take into account the accused early guilty plea, his previous good character and his obvious lack of intention to use the ammunition for the purpose for which it was designed. He also believed that had the round been placed in the aircraft’s hold inside Mr. Ujhelly’s luggage it would have posed very little danger and Mr. Ujhelly would not have access to it until he arrived in Punta Arenas.
For these reasons he believed the seriousness of the offence to come well below the threshold where a custodial sentence would be appropriate.
On being informed that he must pay a total of £800 to the court by 3pm on the day of his appearance, Mr Ujhelly protested that he doubted whether his credit card would support such a payment as he had already had to pay for a new flight and for a week’s accommodation, totaling together around £1,000.
Justices turned down Mr. Ujhelly’s plea for a reduction and warned him that failure to pay on time might result in a custodial sentence. (Penguin News)