Saturday, November 14, 2009

5 years' jail for handing abandoned gun to police

Is this as deranged as it sounds?

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 jury took 20 minutes to make its conviction, and Mr Clarke now faces a minimum of five year's imprisonment for handing in the weapon.

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."

(Hat tip.)


Paul said...

I'm hoping it's not, Tom.

When I was a magistrate I faced the odd 'strict liability' issue in respect of other more minor issues, including driving without insurance, I seem to remember.

In circumstances where it was very clear that the driver was 'innocent', usually because he worked for a company and simply assumed that the company insured the vehicle, the concept of strict liability also applied.
What had to be done, in the eyes of the law, was for the defendant to plead guilty and then immediately receive an abolsute discharge, thus acquiring no criminal record.

The difficulty of course was getting people to understand this utter convolution, and one clerk of the court used to seem to take a slightly odd pleasure in making it all a bit tricky, rather than just encouraging the chair of the bench to say 'Listen mate, plead guilty, 'cos you have to and the law's stupid about this, but you'll be out of here 30 seconds without a blemish to your name.'

I'm not sure what's happened here, as it's crown court, but I hope the judge is sane.

jams o donnell said...

If he is sent down for five years it will be an example of the law being not just an ass but a herd of lobotomised mules

Tom said...

Worth checking out Jack of Kent's blog ( on this.

Best CD Rates said...

Seriously, this is too bad to treat a law-abiding person like this. After this incidence, people would not prefer to help police.