#PaulClarke - After the storm

Well well. Another Twitter storm. But one that CF played his small part in, this time.

CF posted yesterday morning on Paul Clarke, the bloke who faces a five year jail sentence for handing in a gun he found at his local police station.

The mainstream media have yet to pick up on this, and facts are thin on the ground, but the story looks and smells a lot like, at best, the misfiring of a broken justice system.

Gradually the story spread over Twitter, and one commenter, Benjamin Glass, created a Twitter tag, #paulclarke.

Suddenly, around noon, a tipping point was reached. By mid-afternoon, there were two storms raging - one all over the South of England, and one all over the Twittersphere. #paulclarke was 'trending'. This 'umble blog received more hits in 10 hours than it did in the whole of October.

With a controversial story like this, for every 50 people, there are at least 75 different opinions.

Stu at Sharpe's Opinion got all contrarian, posting that it served Clarke right, which caused further outrage in some quarters, including from our humble Devil, who begged to differ.

Mark 'Reckons' Thompson pointed out at that in October, a bloke was told by the police to do exactly what Paul Clarke was arrested for - 'bring it in, mate'. Jack of Kent took a more balanced view of the whole affair.

Hundreds of others blogged their two penn'orth, and many, many more sounded off in comments. CF wasn't quite subjected to a torrent of abuse, but there were many, many dissenters. Let's answer some of them, shall we?

'Clarke did a stupid thing' was a frequent critique. Well, duh, yeah, he did. Carrying a gun through town is not the brightest thing to do. (Possibly) damaging criminal evidence ain't that clever either. No arguments there.

But, but, but, hang on a fucking minute, when did stupidity become a criminal offence? When did being 'a bit silly' start to attract a prison sentence of five fucking years?

'You don't know the law' was a common cry (often appended with '..and I do'). Well, again, yeah. CF has never claimed to be a legal expert. CF doesn't know enormous amounts about vineyards and oenology either, but that doesn't prevent him realising when he's glugging down a particularly agreeable red.

And, on a similar basis, while CF is not fully versed on the details of Strict Liability or of Section 5 of the Firearms Act, this doesn't prevent him wrinkling his nose up at the foul stench of something going pretty fucking wrong.

Let's go through this again: a bloke finds a gun, takes it to a police station, gets arrested, goes to prison for five years.

What particularly subtle legal point - totally missed by CF - makes that OK, for fucks sake?

What particular Latin phrase - of which CF is clearly unaware - explains that sequence of events?

'We don't know all the facts' was another bleat. Well, for the third fucking time, yeah.

But what missing 'fact' could possibly, possibly justify this? What hidden information could be revealed to make us all simultaneously say 'Oh. Well in that case, fuck him; bang him up.'?

No, regardless of the legal niceties, regardless of whether Surrey Today has reported this wrongly, regardless of whether the armchair lawyers of the blogosphere are poorly informed, regardless of whether this Paul Clarke is a good citizen or a nutter, this is not right.

We need to stay angry about this, stay focused on this. Something has gone wrong. Badly wrong.

Whether it went wrong at the police station, with the CPS, with the judge, with the jury, with our legal system or somewhere else, it went wrong.

This is not right.



Gary Clarke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Gary - What facts are missing then? In particular, what facts which would justify a 5 Year sentence?
Genuine questions (not intentionally rhetorical/facetious), by the way...

Gary Clarke said...

What is missing are questions.

Why when spotting a suspicious black sack did Mr Clarke pick it up without examination?

Why did he take it back into his flat with out looking in it first? Surely the weight of a shotgun in a thin plastic bag would have warranted closer inspection?

Once indoors and the contents discovered why did he do nothing until the following morning?

Why only then did he phone the police station?

Why then did he not tell the police that he had found a gun.

Why did he only make an appointment?

There may be perfectly reasonable answers to all these questions but they are not in the article. Without them, it is too early to unthinkingly leap onto the bandwagon of mob indignation.

Further, if you take the time to search the same website for articles referring to Paul Clarke you will find other unlikely instances of this man's dealings with the law.

Anonymous said...

IANAL blah etc...

I also know very little about this case except a few things read on Twitter and blogs but you ask for what missing fact might excuse this sentance, so here's a hypothetical:

a crime is committed with a weapon, and to 'dispose' of the evidence the culprit may decide to claim that they found it and take it along to hand it in, thus attempting to appear a fine upstanding citizen etc....the prosecution can't make a case for the original crime but they can use an existing law to avoid someone 'getting away with it'

I'm not saying this happened, and certainly not intending to impune the reputation of the accused in this case, but there is a hypothetical missing set of facts that could make this case 'reasonable'. The fact I can think of a single possible senario where this case would make sense means I can accept there may be more to this than is obvious.

I don't think that means the law and prosecution in this case shouldn't be questioned, but to naively think there is no way this could be a reasonable outcome is possibly doing an injustice to the legal system too.

Such sensationalist reactionism without real evidence of the facts or background to the case does no one justice.

Anonymous said...

Different country, different laws. Please stop tying to pass this off like it's happening in Vermont or something.

subrosa said...

I've a few answers to Gary Clark . They may not be correct but they're reasonably sensible.

Did he pick it up without examination? Strange thing for an ex-soldier to do.

Perhaps, once he'd examined it, being an ex soldier who knew what he was looking at, he thought it could wait until the next day as he had more important matters to attend to.

He phoned the police in the morning because there was a good chance someone would answer the phone at that time.

I certainly would have made an appointment too just in case I was stopped for carrying a weapon.

JuliaM said...

"But, but, but, hang on a fucking minute, when did stupidity become a criminal offence? "

If it has, we need more jails. LOTS more jails...

Jill said...

My son says that anyone who thinks Twitter storms are exciting (moi) is sadder than sad can be.

When challenged on his view of the substance of this particular Twitter storm, he retreated to Modern Warfare 2, which had its very own PS3 storm earlier this week.

Off topic, maybe, but bloody hell, these are the interactions of my life, goddamnit. Why don't I find any guns?

john miller said...

Of course, "I didn't know the law", "I'm just really stupid" and "I didn't mean it" are all worthless excuses in the eyes of the law, UNLESS, one other rather important fact pertains to the case.

You are a government minister.

From Mandy, via Blunkett, from Hain to Smith, to Baroness Scotland and John Prescott, they and many others have all used a combination of these 3 legal exemptions and - guess what? - it's worked.

So, it really is all Mr Clarke's fault.

He should have been a Labour Party activist all those years ago, instead of wasting his time just playing soldiers.

Stu said...

Whether it went wrong at the police station, with the CPS, with the judge, with the jury, with our legal system or somewhere else, it went wrong.

Yeah, you're right there - except it didn't g wrong in any of those places. Those places did everything right (which is really the point I've been trying to make).

The bit that went wrong is the law itself. The application of it appears to have been entirely correct.

Anyway, I'm very much looking forward to Wednesday, CF ;-)

Anonymous said...

i think the whole story stinks and does not ring true.

Dick Puddlecote said...

And in all the fuss, the blog which first aired the story gets lost in the avalanche. ;-)

There are two reasons why the nationals haven't taken this up. One could be that they checked it out and found it to be poorly reported by the local rag. The other is that it happened on Thursday, was published on the Surrey paper's web-site very late, and was put on the blogosphere Friday morning. It spread incredibly quickly following that, so for the Mail, for example, to publish a piece complete with customary sympathetic pic, would have only made the Saturday edition, by which is was old news.

They certainly will be aware of it now, and will be there at sentencing on the 11th December, one would assume.

It would be great if bloggers could scoop them one more time before then, whether to trash the story or to confirm it, eh?

BTW, whether a naive fantasist or not, 5 years seems excessive to me.

Anonymous said...

A lot of the fury in this storm seems directed at the 5 year minimum prison term. However, there is a get-out under s. 51A(2) allowing a lesser sentence to be imposed where "the court is of the opinion that there are exceptional circumstances relating to the offence or to the offender which justify its not doing so". If the facts are as presented in the original article, the likelihood of Mr. Clarke doing any time (let alone 5 years) must be nil.

Andy Luke said...

regardless...this is not right

I spent most of my weekend with this thought in my head. Thanks for putting that rant out here.

Unknown said...

Paul Clarke's story stank. Then it really stank when she started spouting off after his sentencing.

I'm no doctor, but one does have to wonder if he may have "other issues".

The poor guy caught up in a bureaucracy narrative is laughable - who would do what Clarke did? He was even dumb enough to speculate in the press that the sawn-off shotgun "may have been used in a crime".

Ya think?

Haven't most of us watched enough CSI by now to know not to touch evidence or hang on to it?

Utter, Utter BS.

No, he didn't deserve to do 5 years. But he does deserve the suspended sentence and he should consider himself luck. I think he deserved at least a night in jail.

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