Friday, 13 November 2009

Finders Weepers

Only in a Britain reeking of institutional mistrust, collective punishment and state-sponsored authoritarianism could this happen.

A former soldier who handed a discarded shotgun in to police faces at least five years imprisonment for "doing his duty".

Paul Clarke, 27, was found guilty of possessing a firearm at Guildford Crown Court on Tuesday – after finding the gun and handing it personally to police officers on March 20 this year.

The court heard how Mr Clarke was on the balcony of his home in Nailsworth Crescent, Merstham, when he spotted a black bin liner at the bottom of his garden.

In his statement, he said: "I took it indoors and inside found a shorn-off shotgun and two cartridges.

"I didn't know what to do, so the next morning I rang the Chief Superintendent, Adrian Harper, and asked if I could pop in and see him.

"At the police station, I took the gun out of the bag and placed it on the table so it was pointing towards the wall."

Mr Clarke was then arrested immediately for possession of a firearm at Reigate police station, and taken to the cells.

Prosecuting, Brian Stalk, explained to the jury that possession of a firearm was a "strict liability" charge – therefore Mr Clarke's allegedly honest intent was irrelevant.

Just by having the gun in his possession he was guilty of the charge, and has no defence in law against it, he added.

Judge Christopher Critchlow said: "This is an unusual case, but in law there is no dispute that Mr Clarke has no defence to this charge.

"The intention of anybody possessing a firearm is irrelevant."

Five. Fucking. Years. And a permanently ruined life. For doing the right thing.

What have you bastards done to my country, Labour?


Pavlov's Cat said...

One would hoped we would get a 'Perverse Verdict' in this case

as happened to the chap JuliaM wrote about This Is Why We Should Never Get Rid Of Jury Service

But sadly not, a gutless, bullied, broken spirited jury, just the way they want us.

Beware of Geeks bearing GIFs said...

This is pretty outrageous.

If you've read Surrey police's literature regarding firearms, you should really phone the police to say there's a gun in my garden. But who does read this stuff? It's normally written in the style of addressing a 5 year old and most people simply regard it as insulting or irrelevant.

But this was a genuine act of trying to do the right thing and it is extremely worrying that the legal process does not account for this, and blindly overrules common sense and panders blindly to the strict doctrine of thousands of often self-contradicting rules.

A travesty of injustice - I am ashamed.

Gawain Towler said...

Stupid stupid stupid

Beware of Geeks bearing GIFs said...


Neal Asher said...

Lesson learnt: if you find a loaded firearm just keep it in your house for the next burglar. Then after you've shot him, put it in his hand and claim it was his and it went off during the struggle.

BTS said...

Pavlov's Cat is spot on - the jury are a bunch of spineless bastards who did what they were told rather than applying some common sense to the situation. These fuckers have obviously never seen Twelve Angry Men.

I'm really pissed off with this shit now.

Really pissed off.

Unknown said...


Angry Exile said...

As Pavlov's Cat and BTS have already said this is when you'd hope that juries would fucking think about it and say that when the accused actually did nothing materially wrong, and if anything acted for the greater good, strict liability can go and get fucked. In fact even before that you'd have thought someone at the CPS would knock it on the head as not in the public interest to prosecute. This is just unthinking application of laws that can't possibly have been written with all situations, particularly this one, in mind. Other than the poor bastard who's just been thrown in jail for trying to be a good citizen where's the fucking victim here? If the next person who finds a gun in their garden decides to dispose of it by placing a 'help yourself' ad on Craigslist instead of taking it to the police we'll all fucking know why, won't we?

Sam Duncan said...

This government reminds me of the Top Gear crew. “How hard can it be? What could possibly go wrong? Hit it with a hammer.”

JuliaM said...

Oh, good grief...

CJ Nerd said...

This sort of thing is why judges are often against mandatory sentences for "strict" offences like possessing a gun or a knife.

They can usually find a reason to class cases as 'exceptional' and avoid passing a jail sentence.

Let's see what happens when he's sentenced. Fingers crossed, they will find a way to let him go.

If not, I suggest a blogosphere campaign of thousands of Xmas cards to Paul Clarke, plus a petition on the Number10 website.

banned said...

Def the jury to blame in this case. Everyone else was just following procedure in the expectation that at some point the whole thing would be thrown out.

Remember boys and girls, this also applies to illegal drugs, pornography and anything else that it is illegal merely To Possess that you might innocently come across.

Dick Puddlecote said...

CJ Nerd: Like your thinking.

Better still, as Gawain said on EE.

"Come on, the good people of Guildford, Reigate and Merstham, get down to Guildford High Court on December 11th and stop this travesty of justice taking place."

Good train links to Guildford. ;-)

BTS said...

I'd be up for that Dick. I'll bring the vodka, you bring the stretcher..

I've mailed this story on to Channel 4 news on the off chance as well. Okay, fat lot of fuck will come of it but then writing to my MP won't do much either.

Except that I can never resist the opportunity..

Witterings from Witney said...

It says something about our parliamentary representatives that this law ever got through parliament, or was this as a result of an SI?

If it was as an SI, where were our Opposition - asleep on the job as usual?

And this is democracy? Methinks we really must have our revolution!

Old Holborn said...

Is this the same guy?

Dick Puddlecote said...

Yep. And the same guy as in this story. It would seem he is someone the Surrey Advertiser feel confident in contacting for stories local to Merstham.

And it would seem he owns quite a nice car.

This is him.

CJ Nerd said...

There is something... not quite right here. I've a feeling we're not getting the full story.

Sentencing is on December 11, and I suspect there may be more reporters present then. It'll be interesting to see what comes out in the reports.

Edwin Greenwood said...

"This sort of thing is why judges are often against mandatory sentences for "strict" offences like possessing a gun or a knife."

Indeed. We may whinge often enough at "soft" sentences, but this is the other side of the coin. Mandatory minimum sentences are an abomination, usually introduced as a crowdpleaser to make a politician look good. There will always be cases where the defendant is clearly technically guilty but where extenuating or mitigating circumstances justify a lighter sentence or even a discharge.

Little as we may trust some of the loopier of the Cocklecarrot tendency, deciding the particular sentence in the individual case is their job.

As Pavlov's Cat says, the jury still had the option of delivering a "perverse verdict". The luck of the draw, I guess. The juries I've had the pleasure of serving on so far have all had a full quorum of stroppy fuckers who would have acquitted whatever His Honour directed.

Strict offences are also a dangerous area. Consider the knife carrying offence, which amounts to "having a bladed article in a public place without authority or good reason". This immediately transfers the burden of proof to the defendant.

An alert jury has to negate the criteria. Not, "Do I believe Mr Scumm's 'good reason'?", but, "Is Mr Scumm's explanation so implausible that I cannot believe it?"

Tricky game.

Pavlov's Cat said...

via Old Holborn comments & the Lone Voice

can anyone say 'Fitted Up'

We'' get you and your little dog too'

A man accused of beating a DVLA inspector with a broom handle as walked free from court after claiming his alleged victim had exaggarated the incident.

Inspector Hayden Hart had claimed he was attakced my Paul Clarke, 26, as he patrolled Wood Street, Merstham, checking parked cars for out-of-date tax discs.

Anonymous said...

Is anyone able to clarify the following in respect of this matter:

When Mr Clarke telephoned the Chief Superintendent and asked to pop into the station for a little 'chat'... did he mention then that he was bringing a firearm into the station?

If not, what would be going through the mind of this chief superintendent when mr clarke pulled the weapon out? If he had known about the assault matter on the DVLA Inspector, could he have been more than a little alarmed?

Doing mediation, it has taught me to always reserve judgement. I hear one side of the story and feel instant sympathy for one side and pre-judge the other. The number of times i have felt a mug for swallowing crap.

I look forward to hearing a more fuller and balanced account on this matter. Questions i would consider is whether there has been antipathy towards the police by mr clarke, not just the perceived antipathy of police towards mr clarke for'getting off' a previous charge.

I recall cases in the past when unwitting members of the public have handed in WW2 hand grenades etc. Were any of them ever charged? Can't help but think that perhaps the jury did get it right if they were given the full facts and that people are mistakenly jumping on a bandwagon, based on a poor portrayal of events given by mr clarke.

If mr clarke had said to the chif superintendent that he had found a weapon and what would he suggest he do with it, then that would have been fair. To convict someone for doing what a police officer had told him to do would be wrong. If Mr clarke thought that he couldn't wait to see the look on the police officers face when he pulled the weapon out, then he deserves to be convicted.

Dick Puddlecote said...

So we put people in jail for 5 years for being smug now?

I can think of another 646 candidates, in that case.

BTS said...

Anon: There may well be more to this story but one can assume that any pertinent details were covered in the report. It would have to be a particularly poor piece of journalism not to report that he'd walked in to the police station whilst pulling his best Jimmy Cagney impression for example.

It should be remembered that he was convicted on the sole count of possession, not of threatening behaviour, and I've never heard of the CPS pushing just for one conviction when it could try for more.

One point I would raise is that he quite conceivably felt that the safest course of action was to turn it in himself as, being an ex-soldier, he has had weapons training, whereas a PC sent to collect it probably would not have done.

It might also be fair to suggest that he might simply have not wanted plod coming to his house.

It's worth bearing in mind that he could just as easily have been arrested on the same charges at his house.

"If Mr clarke thought that he couldn't wait to see the look on the police officers face when he pulled the weapon out, then he deserves to be convicted."
If Mr clarke thought that he couldn't wait to see the look on the police officers face when he pulled the weapon out, then he deserves to be convicted.
I have to disagree totally. Even if that were the case then surely five years minimum is a bit much for winding up a policeman? And as I said before, there is no mention of any such antics.

He was convicted on a strict liability charge against to which there is no defence. And faces a minimum mandatory sentence. Those points alone should be worth worrying about as even the prosecution said that his intentions were irrelevant. The minute he found the gun he was guilty. I'd say that's something to concern people regardless of the details.

w/v: gotterat - Brown just gets everywhere these days..