Paul 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.”
He 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!”
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