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Ex-soldier faces jail for handing in discarded shotgun

A former soldier who handed a discarded shotgun in to Surrey police could face at least five years in prison for being in possession of a prohibited firearm.

Paul Clarke of Merstham,in Surrey, was found guilty of possessing a firearm at Guildford Crown Court on 17 November,after finding the sawn-off shotgun and two cartridges in March this year.

In a statement read out in,court, Mr Clarke said: “I did not think for one moment I would be arrested. I thought it was my duty to hand it in and get it off the streets.” The court heard how Mr Clarke found a black bin liner at the bottom of his garden, which backs on to a field. He added: “I didn’t know what to do, so the next morning I rang chief superintendent Adrian Harper at Surrey police and asked if I could pop in and see him.”

Mr Clarke was then arrested for possession of a firearm at Reigate police station and taken to a cell.

Prosecutor Brian Stalk explained to the jury that possession of a firearm was a “strict liability” charge, therefore Mr Clarke’s allegedly honest intent was irrelevant. “Just by having the gun in his possession Mr Clarke was guilty of the charge and has no defence in law against it,” he added.

Mr Clarke’s solicitor, Lionel Blackman of Lionel Blackman solicitors in Epsom, Surrey, told Shooting Times that whatever the final judgement of this case, the law needs amending and clear guidelines should be issued regarding the surrender and finding of prohibited guns.

The rest of this article appears in 9 December issue of Shooting Times.

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