Home > Main Blog - General > Why Minimum Sentencing Laws Are Wrong

Why Minimum Sentencing Laws Are Wrong

What would you do if you found a bin bag in your garden that had a sawn off shot gun with it?

a) phone the police and take it to them to hand it in
b) phone the police and leave it for them or someone else to pick it up
c) leave it – someone else may pick it up.

If you chose a) or b), because you were concerned that someone else may do bad things with the gun, you would now be looking at FIVE years behind prison. This is now the fate of a Paul Clarke from Surrey.

Mr Clarke, an ex Soldier, was on the balcony of his home when he spotted a black bin liner at the bottom of his garden. He took it indoors and inside found a sawn-off shotgun and two cartridges.

The next morning he rang the Chief Superintendent and asked to see him. He went to the station, took the gun out of the bag and placed it on the table so it was pointing towards the wall. It was therefore not a threat.

At that point Clarke was immediately arrested for possession of a firearm and taken to the cells.

All well and good you would have assumed. The police need to verify that the man is honest, law abiding etc. He would be allowed to go on his way.

No. He was charged with possession of a fire-arm. Possession is illegal.

Just like speeding, there is no defence for possession of a firearm. If you do more than 30 in a 30 zone, you are speeding. You are guilty. Pay your fine, add points to your licence.

If you are holding a firearm, you are holding a firearm. You are in possession. It is illegal.

There are however cases that are not in the public interest to prosecute. However the Crown Prosecution Service also have Performance Indicators to meet.

One of those targets is to increase the level of prosecutions for crimes reported to the police, by 1.2 million. The CPS calls the difference between crimes reported and prosecuted the justice gap. This is an easy prosecution.

So a jury will find him not guilty?

No – they can not. The Judge confirms the case put by the prosecution – possession of a firearm is in the UK a strict liability issue. There is no legal defence.

So the Judge can be lenient? No, the minimum sentence for possession is five years. Mr Clarke will be out within 2 1/2 years for good behaviour, for his crime of good behaviour.

Remember this case when newspapers and politicians start screaming demands to get tough on crime.

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