No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Man Convicted After Turning in a Discarded Shotgun to Police

SurreypolicePaul Clarke, 27, a veteran, thought that he was doing the right thing when he found a shotgun in his garden. He took the shotgun to the police station and was immediately arrested for possession of a firearm without permit and criminally charged — an offense that brings five years imprisonment. Prosecutor Brian Stalk insisted that this is a strict liability offense and his intent to help police does not matter — he is a menace to society as defined under the criminal code.

If there was a case for “jury nullification,” this was it. However, the jury took only 20 minutes to find Clarke guilty.

Clarke insisted “I thought it was my duty to hand it in and get it off the streets.” Well now he knows better.

His defense attorney tried to show that a leaflet distributed by the Surrey Police asked citizens to “report[] found firearms.”

PublicenemyposterHe also showed jurors a leaflet printed by Surrey Police explaining to citizens what they can do at a police station, which included “reporting found firearms”. Notably, the arresting officer admitted that he was not even aware of the public leaflet.

However, 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.”

Paul Clarke will be sentenced on December 11th. He will be hopefully removed from the streets, so that felons can rest assured that, when they leave loaded weapons in backyards, people will respect their proprietary interests. The only question is whether the police shouldn’t return the shotgun to where it was left. Otherwise, there is a gang banger who will continue a panicked search for his missing weapon.

In the end, the only response to the Court and the Prosecutor can be found in the English classic Oliver Twist when Mr. Bumble stated ” If the law supposes that, then the law is a ass, a idiot!”

For the full story, click here.

36 thoughts on “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Man Convicted After Turning in a Discarded Shotgun to Police

  1. AY.

    Sliced bread has nothing on the internet. However one must leave one’s brain’s crap detector in most skeptical mode, their is a lot of good stuff but also an enormous amount of rubbish.

  2. I assume that Mr. Clarke was to have called the police and asked them to please come get the gun he found in his garden?

  3. CM,

    I think that would be “Justicia est Iniquitas , Iniquitas est Justicia”, but honestly mespo’s Latin skills are much better than mine.

  4. “just another example of an over reaching nanny state of which the US is fast becoming.”

    This is where you miss the point. This is a case of rigid application of the law and zero tolerance. Both of these are memes pushed by fundamentalists and some conservatives. This is not about State interference in people’s lives, it is about the rigidity of certain political viewpoints.

  5. I had a lawyer in California look at my joke of an answer and she says it actually checks out.

    The Californian gardener who has owned his garden (and implicitly the gun) since before 1/1/91 would have to take no action other than buying a gun rack or opening an Ebay account to make a few bucks. If he is so inclined he can helpfully point the CA state police to his Ebay page, so they can gather the information and file it somewhere.

    If the gun is newly acquired (as it would be in a recent real estate transaction) he brings it to the nearest federally licensed gun dealer (if he gets pulled over he can say that’s where he’s going) and gets it registered. Then as a good citizen he can show it to the police if he’s so inclined.

    God bless America!

  6. I find it amusing you calling us Brit’s sissy dudes? Your national sport is played by Men who wear protection so they don’t hurt their poor little selfs?

    I have never seen our game of Rugby played in fancy dress like your American football teams, If it is anyone who is sissy then look at NFL Players?????

  7. This case actually closely resembles the one of Leroy Reed from Wisconsin back in the 80s. That case was noteworthy because PBS got permission to videotape the jury deliberations. Mr. Reed was a borderline retarded man, who was on parole from a felony (undisclosed). He bought a gun as part of a correspondence course to become a private detective. When a police officer was shown Mr. Reed’s receipt for the gun, the officer told him to go home and bring in the gun. Mr. Reed went home, put the gun in a shoebox, and took the bus back to the police station, where he gave it to a detective. He was promptly arrested for being a felon in possession of a firearm. In the Reed case, the jury ultimately nullified and found him not guilty. The deliberations are fascinating to watch.

  8. foo,

    what about foreseeability of harm when you have an inherently dangerous instrument? But for, you setting in the chain of events in motion the harm would not have occurred.

    Case in point is the owner of a vicious dog with known propensities in a neighborhood, uncaged with children around?

  9. godhelpus,
    Rugby, although interesting to watch is more a mass mugging than a sport. As an American I first became aware of it around 50 years ago in “This Sporting Life” with Richard Harris. Sometimes there is a thin line between manliness and insanity.

  10. Anonymously Yours:
    If this was happening in Texas you would have never heard of it.

    LOL, no doubt. St. Louis either I’m thinking, the better half and I found a gun next to our car as we were getting into it. We were lucky (?) enough to have a police car drive by at just the same moment so of course we (fools that we were) flagged it down and showed it to the policeman. We told him we would follow him to the station to make a report and that we had not disturbed it in case there were fingerprints. He picked it up by the grip, said “thanks” and walked back to his car and took off. I wonder who it ended up being planted on?

    Same thing with a fat prescription drug bottle stuffed full of what looked like PCP soaked joints (a St. Louis fad for awhile)that ended up in our front yard after a police chase down our street one Saturday morning.

    In retrospect I can’t believe we let a perfectly good criminal activity ‘kit’ get away from us so foolishly. We were younger and less wise in the ways of the world is my only excuse.

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