Alex Massie

Is This the Most Enraging Story of the Year? Perhaps!

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You might think that this story can't be true or that's been made-up to provoke everyone's inner Littlejohn. But no, not so. It is true and, alas, an enraging, dispiriting business.

A former soldier who handed a discarded shotgun in to police faces at least five years imprisonment for "doing his duty".

Paul Clarke, 27, was found guilty of possessing a firearm at Guildford Crown Court on Tuesday – after finding the gun and handing it personally to police officers on March 20 this year.

The jury took 20 minutes to make its conviction, and Mr Clarke now faces a minimum of five year's imprisonment for handing in the weapon.

In a statement read out in court, Mr Clarke said: "I didn't think for one moment I would be arrested.

"I thought it was my duty to hand it in and get it off the streets."

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The court heard how Mr Clarke was on the balcony of his home in Nailsworth Crescent, Merstham, when he spotted a black bin liner at the bottom of his garden.

In his statement, he said: "I took it indoors and inside found a shorn-off shotgun and two cartridges.

"I didn't know what to do, so the next morning I rang the Chief Superintendent, Adrian Harper, and asked if I could pop in and see him.

"At the police station, I took the gun out of the bag and placed it on the table so it was pointing towards the wall."

Mr Clarke was then arrested immediately for possession of a firearm at Reigate police station, and taken to the cells.

Now I happen to think that our gun laws are often pretty absurd anyway. But, assuming that these are all the relevant facts, this is worse than absurd: it is monstrous. Next time you hear a copper complaining that people don't respect the police think on this and remember that if the police are mistrusted it is, at least in large part, because they have often forfeited the right to be trusted. This story, extreme as it may be, reaffirms that.

The law is clearly at fault here, but that doesn't excuse the wilful, even vindictive abandonment of common sense in this instance. This isn't a miscarriage of justice, it's a betrayal of justice and with the exception of Mr Clarke all concerned, including the jury, should be ashamed of themselves.

Hat-tip: Charlotte Gore. Pickled Politics and, especially, the Devil's Kitchen have more too.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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