Friday, November 20, 2009

Paul Clarke: Punished for doing the right thing?

I don't know where on earth I was last weekend but apparently there was a bit of a Twitterstorm about Paul Clarke. I'd never heard of him until loveandgarbage mentioned it last night. I thought at first he was an old Big Brother contestant - remember Paul and Helen, anyone?

Every so often we bloggers get all hot under the collar about stupid things happening, about authority being exercised excessively and unjustly, just for the sake of it. A while ago, I got very exercised about Government plans to register anyone who comes in contact with children and the ridiculous intervention of OFSTED into individual childcare arrangements. Then around the same time we had the completely nonsensical and offensive refusal of Morrisons supermarket to sell a bottle of booze to a woman in case she gave it to her seventeen year old daughter. I mean, where's Esther Rantzen and her Jobsworth award when you need her?

What these three things have in common is that they cause a bit of inconvenience to people. What's happened to Paul Clarke is much more sinister.

Basically, he found a sawn off shotgun that someone had dumped in his garden so he did the decent thing and took it to the police station to hand it in as reported here. It would not be unreasonable to expect the Police Officer on duty to take it off your hands and be a bit relieved that one less gun was on the streets. But, no. Instead, Paul Clarke was arrested and the book thrown at him because, apparently, just being in possession of a gun is an offence punishable with a minimum. Yes, that's s statutory minimum, although there is a chance that the sentencing judge could decide there are exceptional circumstances to allow a lesser penalty.

Jennie, whose head clearly wasn't full of mince like mine was at the weekend, wrote this post, reminding us of that sinister phrase Labour ministers are unnaturally fond of "if you've done nothing wrong, you've got nothing to fear." Paul Clarke is finding out that this is not the case.

The main reason for doing this post, however was to let you see this brilliant post by someone who really knows about legal matters, going through the entire legal process and making some very salient points about how things could have been different. He also pointed out the contribution of the Liberal Democrats in arguing against minimum sentencing for all sorts of reasons.

This is well worth a read, and puts some very complicated legalese into language that even I can understand.

I hope common sense prevails in this case because it would be a terrible injustice to imprison someone for five years for basically doing their civic duty. It hardly enocurages anyone else to do the same, does it?

I'm also assuming that Scots Law is more sensible and that something like this couldn't happen up here. Anyone care to correct me on that one?

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