Ex-soldier arrested and charged with gun possession – for taking a gun into a police station.

Posted: November 14, 2009 in World News
Tags: , ,

This story has been doing the rounds on twitter, as well as on various blogging and micro-blogging sites, so I’ve had chance to look at the story from a few different perspectives. The background of it is this: Paul Clarke, a former soldier, found a sawn-off shotgun and ammo in his back garden in a black bag (probably thrown over by local ruffians). He calls his local police station and asks to see the chief superintendent the next day. When he goes in with the gun and ammo, instead of being allowed on his way he was arrested for possession of an unlicensed firearm.

Initially, there has been outrage over how someone who thought he was doing his duty by giving the gun to police was treated so badly, and now faces a minimum 5 year jail term. The law that he was convicted under was Strict Liability – in other words, there is no defence for him having the firearm in his possession at all. When the judge was directing the jury, he said to them that “there is no defence” that could be offered, because of this law. So the jury were forced to find him guilty, and the judge’s hands are tied on sentencing as there are minimum and maximum sentences to be passed down for these crimes – the minimum in this case being 5 years imprisonment.

There has also been a backlash against the outrage suggesting that Mr Clarke should not have been walking the streets with a gun and ammo, and instead should have had the police come to his house to collect the weapon. But then surely the same thing would happen? He’d be arrested for possession, as he’d found it in his back garden.

I’m stumped at how draconian our law has become really, no common sense has been used at any stage whatsoever. The CPS should have not allowed it to go to court, that’s one of the more ridiculous decisions I’ve seen from our legal system. Legal blogger Jack Of Kent suggests that the law is the law and must be upheld at all times, and also suggests that Mr Clarke was foolhardy in taking the firearm through the streets (he could have been mugged, you know) to the police station. But that argument is poor. Many police forces hold weapons amnesties at various points, which involves people taking weapons (through those same streets where Mr Clarke could have been mugged) to police stations where they would be allowed to surrender weapons without fear of legal action.

Where does this leave us now? If you were to find a gun in a bus shelter, what would you do? Would you do the right thing which is pick it up and take it to a police station, or would you leave it where it is, for fear of being put in jail for possession? And if you leave it where it is do you stay with it, just in case someone else comes along who might not have the same moralities and sensibilities as yourself and takes it, or do you just ignore it and let someone else deal with it? This is what our society has become, a society that is to afraid to do the right thing, whether it be intervening in a fight, or reporting crime, or even taking a gun to the police station. We are absolutely pathetic.

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