Paul Clarke: Gun Possessor

Overview - A British ex-soldier finds a sawed off shotgun dumped in his garden. Knowing it to be an illegal item, he carries the shotgun in a plastic bag to the police to turn it in. He is promptly thrown in jail and convicted of the illegal possession of firearms, with two years jail time.

One British policeman, commenting privately on the matter:

His explanation, summed up, is basically that boomsticks are alien devices that could explode and fire off rounds at any time by being carried about town in a plastic bag, and that this is why the guy is being charged.

While I can somewhat see the argument, personally I would have to argue that a reasonable person, English or no, isn’t going to be magically imbued with the knowledge that taking illegal items to the police to turn them in is itself a crime. He is more likely going to view it as his civic duty. An ex-soldier, in particular, is going to be aware that the boomstick won’t explode and so he can’t be expected to be so fearful of it as to not touch it. Simply based on the reasonable person standard of law, this conviction doesn’t seem to follow any sense beyond blind adherence to the rules.

I hate my fucking country sometimes. This story needs to get massive.

Any illegal item dumped on my property will not be touched at the risk of being charged with possession. Call the police and let them pick up the item.

(This learned from watching COPS.):smiley:

That said, pretty damned stupid that he was charged although technically, he *did *have possession of the shotgun when he brought it in.

A guy doing what is the right thing to do in any other civilized country, gets thrown in the can for turning in an illegal weapon. Britain’s moronic gun laws aside, this is now way to treat a citizen and certainly no way to teat a soldier.

Hey, GB got exactly what the majority voted for. Their land, their government, their laws.

I say “Bully” for them. They should throw more of their citizens in prison.

Most of the craziest nanny-state gone amok stories I have been hearing have been coming out of England these days.

Wrong. He has not yet been sentenced. That will be on December 11.

Huh? I think you’re muddling up the different “weapons” here. One was a broomstick with which he allegedly beat a government employee; the other was a sawn-off shotgun (unless I’m missing some clever sarcasm).

Ignorantia iuris neminem excusat.

IANAL, but the crime of possession of an illegal firearm does not take into account intent: he committed the crime - for whatever reason - and is therefore guilty.

I agree, though, that morally this looks very embarrassing, and it’s shit for the guy in question. And will to an extent be a show trial. However, the judge has a great deal of leeway over sentencing, and will hopefully give him a suspended sentence etc. to reflect his good intent.

Well, England is a particularly crazy nanny state. It’s no wonder people don’t trust the police anymore.

Analogy - happened to someone I used to know: he got zapped and pulled over by the cops for riding his motorcycle at 120mph on the motorway.

He explained to the cops that he had a human liver on ice in his top box that was needed urgently for a transplant at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

The cops then gave him a 100mph escort to the hospital, and backs were patted. He was charged and convicted of speeding, but because of his good intent, the magistrate didn’t impose a fine. (This was in the days before mandatory licence points.)

Your cite kinda backs up what I’m saying:

In this case, the jury didn’t add such a rider - no idea why. But the judge has discretion over sentencing.

This thread seems a little like premature recreational outrage, given that he hasn’t yet been sentenced.

There’s an underlying problem with both your example and the OP’s. The inflexibility of the law and the lack of disgression given to lower level law enforcement officers (who are often the ones most experienced and best placed to make common-sense judgement calls on incidents like this) mean that taxpayers money is being pissed away prosecuting good people like this soldier and your friend who should never have to put up with this kind of inconvenience. Let’s say that the judge at this soldier’s impending trial makes the only decent decision available to him, and lets him off scot free with an apology and some compensation for his time and trouble. How much money would have been wasted getting to this point? The issue isn’t whether this guy committed a crime according to the law, because we all know that he did. The issue is that the law is unjust and needs to be rewritten immediately to accommodate incidents like this.

I guess we’ll see. Maybe I’m wrong about American law, but here I would generally expect that if you’re found guilty, you are getting sentenced to something. Maybe American judges can let the guy go after a guilty verdict here as well.

Can’t they impose a suspended sentence?

Don’t forget the PR value of a “show trial” highlighting the law to the crims etc.

If there’s a mandatory minimum sentence, as some people are claiming, then I concur. However, if you look at the precedent for firearms sentencing, then it’s not so clear.

I’m not defending the law here, by the way, but I am trying to quell some of the potential hysteria, as expressed in some of the replies already in this thread, and the one at SomethingAwful.

Come on. You’re telling us that UK hospitals use unmarked, unescorted motorcycles to transport rare and delicate human organs? The most dangerous method of transportation on the road? I don’t believe you.

Well what can I say? I can’t prove anything: I’m just a guy on the internet. All I can tell you is that it happened when I worked for a courier company out of Reading in 1991. The company got a call asking for the fastest bike available, and “Dewy”, who had an 1100cc sports bike, jumped at the chance. He got pulled over in “chicken shit canyon” just before junction 6 of the M40. By the time he got to Headington, the cop car had radioed ahead and got local bike cops to seal off all the side roads leading to the hospital to give him a clear path to the hospital. Afraid I can offer no more proof of the incident, though here’s another private courier company that does organ transportation.

ETA: here’s another job ad mentioning private couriers transporting organs for transplant. There are several more via Google.

Well, to be fair, motorcyclists going 120 MPH often are transporting organs to be donated. They usually just don’t know it yet.

The cops were just following the latest police motto: Deliver a liver and you’ll need bail for jail.

This is why I believe in retaining jury nullification.